Mount Gilead and Highland played in a back-and-forth contest for the first 20 minutes of their Friday night game, hosted by Highland.
However, the final 12 minutes were dominated by the Scots, as they pulled away for a 59-44 KMAC win.
“Like I told them, our competitiveness in the first half was not that great,” said Scot coach Chris Powell. “We sat and talked and schemed a bit. We came together as a team and guys making plays.”
Early in the game, both teams traded runs. Four points from Mack Anglin, three from Andrew Wheeler and two from Chris Branham gave Highland an early 9-2 lead, but MG rallied to finish the quarter with 10 straight points. Three-pointers from Seth Young and Jason Bolha brought the team within one and two shots from Mason Mollohan staked them to a three-point lead after eight minutes.
The Indians maintained a slim advantage for nearly all the second quarter, getting seven points from Bolha and six from Mollohan as they led 25-23 going into the half. MG coach Tom Cooper said after the game that Bolha, who led all scorers on the night with 22 points, ranks up there with any guard he’s coached.
“Jason Bolha is a great example of a kid putting a ton of work into his skills,” said the coach. “I’ve coached some great guards, but never coaches as good of a dribbler as Jason Bolha.”
Highland opened the third quarter with back-to-back baskets by Kaleb Phillips and Anglin to regain the lead at 27-25, but Bolha tallied seven straight to stake the Indians to a 32-27 advantage with 4:33 to go in the third.
Unfortunately for MG, the wheels would fall off after that point. Highland finished the third quarter on a 12-2 run with five different players scoring either two or three points. A big key to Highland’s second-half surge was limiting Mollohan’s opportunities. After scoring 12 in the first half, the Indian junior only had two after the intermission.
“After we played them last year, one of the guys we have a lot of respect for is Mollohan,” he said. “We talked a lot the last two days about ‘Where’s Mollohan?’. The guys did a good job spying him and helping out.”
Trailing 39-34 entering the fourth quarter, the Indians got five points from Young to get within four at 43-39 with 6:28 to play. However, they would go over three minutes without a score. During that time, Highland got 12 straight points to go in front by 16 and never looked back. Branham led the fourth-quarter effort for Highland, scoring 12 in the period and six during that 12-point run.
“He started a handful of games at the end of last year, so he’s not a rookie,” said Powell. “He’s a high energy guy.”
Cooper also felt Branham’s work on the offensive boards proved lethal to his squad.
“In the second half, I was pretty disappointed,” said the coach. “I thought Branham’s effort on the boards was the difference.”
One thing Cooper feels his team needs is more scoring balance. His three most experienced players totaled all the team’s points with Bolha hitting three three-pointers in scoring his 22, Mollohan adding 14 and Young scoring eight.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys who are learning how to do it,” he said. “This was a growing pains night. We just have to keep working and getting better.”
Anglin delivered on three three-pointers in leading Highland with 19 points. Branham finished with 14 and Andrew Wheeler tallied 10. For Powell, the best part of the night was simply getting a league win.
“Every league win is a good win,” he said. “We’ll cherish every one we get.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS