After struggling offense at home against Northmor for over a quarter and a half, Mount Gilead heated up from the field and didn’t cool off until they’d claimed a 64-49 decision.
Neither team could do much on offense in the early going, as the Indians led 6-1 after five minutes of action thanks to four points from freshman Elijah Chafin and two from Carter Kennon. Despite his players not having much luck putting points on the board, Golden Knight coach Blade Tackett felt they were playing well.
“I think early when we didn’t score in the first four minutes, we were getting good looks,” he said. “We got to the free throw line, but didn’t score.”
However, those shots started to fall late in the period. Grant Bentley came off the bench to provide five points and both Max Lower and Gavin Miller tallied baskets to lift Northmor to an 11-8 lead after eight minutes.
Matthew Bland opened the second with a three-pointer to tie the game, but Northmor responded with an 11-3 run led by Lower’s six points and four from Graesin Cass to increase their advantage to a 22-14 score.
“We definitely kind of lost composure a little bit there,” said MG coach Dan Strasser. “They went on a run in the second quarter and we got in a bit of foul trouble. But the guys responded. I took a time out and the guys responded. We dialed it back and focused on our zone offense and were able to answer their run.”
Over the final three minutes of the half, the Indians were able to erase that deficit, getting two three-pointers from Bland, one from Jackson Huffer and a basket by Turner Fitzpatrick to tie the game at 25.
“The three-ball is an x-factor,” said Strasser “We took good ones, though. Early on, I thought we were trying to force in some threes. Then they got inside-out and that’s the threes we want. The guys have the green light on those.”
They would then pull away in the third quarter. Leading 30-29 with 6:15 to play in the period, Mount Gilead scored 15 straight, with Huffer tallying six of the count and Chafin and Bland both hitting from long range.
Tackett felt that his team got away from what they’d been doing right after they got into a hole.
“A lot of times, we’ll get down eight to 10 points and think we have to get it all in one possession,” he said. “I think we missed a lot of lay-ups and the big thing in the third quarter was that they got every 50/50 ball. I think we got stops early on in the third. We’d get the first stop, but then give up second chances.”
The Golden Knights finished the quarter with a three-pointer by Bentley, but still trailed 45-32 going into the fourth. While they would get within 11 a couple times, the Indians were able to pull away to wind up winning by 15.
After losing a lopsided game on Saturday to River Valley, Strasser was happy with the way his team responded a mere three nights later.
“Obviously, that was a rough night last Saturday,” he said. “We all had to own it, starting with me at the top. We watched the film and told the guys we’re flushing it away. I told the guys that was a huge test of character. Some teams could have folded their tail up. This was a huge character win for us.”
Bland scored 22 points and recorded six of his team’s nine three-pointers. Huffer added 19 pints and Chafin scored 10. For Northmor, Bentley hit three three-pointers in tallying 16 points. Cass, Lower and Kooper Keen all finished with nine points.
Tackett said that he thinks his team has a lot of ability, but just needs to show it more consistently.
“The kids played hard, but we have to control the tempo for 32 minutes,” he said. “We did that for a quarter and a half. Our guys are emotional players and I don’t mind that emotion, but we have to control what we can control. When we play our game, I think we can compete with anyone. We just have to play our game for four quarters.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS