By ROB HAMILTON
In a game where both teams struggled to connect from the field, Mount Gilead was able to topple Highland in a Friday night road boys’ basketball contest by a 44-34 margin.
The Scots struck first in the game, getting a basket from Alex Mason and a three-pointer by Mack Anglin to jump out to a 5-0 lead. However, the Indians would rally with four straight baskets to take the lead. Four different players scored in Tyler Bland, Deondre Cook, Isaiah Harris and Zack Hosack, as MG took an 8-5 lead.
Anglin would hit again from long range to tie the game, but the Indians finished the quarter with a 12-10 lead.
Quin Winkelfoos opened the second with a basket, but the Scots would suffer through a six-minute drought where they weren’t able to light up the scoreboard. Mount Gilead wouldn’t be much better offensively, but got a pair of three-pointers by Cook in the period and led 18-14 at the half.
“It’s a game of making shots and unfortunately, tonight, they made a couple more jump shots,” said Highland coach Matt Bradley. “The final score is not indicative of how close the game was — you just have to make shots and they made a couple more.”
Mount Gilead coach Tom Cooper also felt it was a close game and was just happy his team won on a night where things weren’t necessarily clicking on the offensive end.
“Any time you can win on the road in the MOAC, it’s a good night,” he said. “The guys are starting to learn how to win when they don’t shoot well and that’s a good sign.”
Cooper added that although Highland has been hit hard by the injury bug recently, that was no reason to dismiss them as a quality opponent.
“We knew Highland would give us a great effort,” he said. “They’re decimated with injuries, but they gave us a good effort and I think they’ve been playing some of their best ball the last few games.”
Highland would regain the lead in the early going of the third quarter, as Winkelfoos opened the period with a basket and Anglin added a three-pointer to put the home team up 19-18. However, the Scots would be held to a three-pointer by
Winkelfoos and a free throw from Dylan Tuggle over the final seven minutes of the quarter, allowing the Indians to regain the lead. They would outscore Highland 10-4 over that span, with Mason Mollohan scoring four points and both Tyler Bland and Hosack hitting threes, to take a 28-23 lead into the final period.
Winklefoos opened the fourth with a basket, but MG got shots from Hosack and Alijah Keen and a technical free throw from Hosack to jump out to a 33-25 advantage. A 7-3 run by the Scots got them within a 36-32 margin with 4:24 to play, but they would only score two points over the final four minutes of action.
During those closing moments, Bland hit a three-pointer and free throw for MG and Hosack finished the game with four free throws to give the Indians a 10-point win.
“We’re very fortunate to have experienced guards who’ve been through the battles and it helps they’re pretty good foul shooters,” said Cooper. “To me, the biggest difference was our effort on box-outs with Alijah Keen, Mason Mollohan and Isaiah Harris. They did a good job.”
Both Hosack and Bland finished with 12 points and Cook added eight. Highland got 13 points each from Anglin and Winkelfoos. Bradley noted that with a couple of his team’s post players being out with injury, Winkelfoos has taken on a bigger role both offensively and defensively for them.
“He’s been doing a great job,” said the coach. “He knows he has to do the bulk of the rebounding and he’s making the most of it. I’m really proud of how hard he’s working on rebounding.”
With the win, MG (10-5, 7-2 in league play) stays in the mix for a Blue DIvision title, only trailing Centerburg (7-1 in the league). “You have to come ready to play every night,” said Cooper. “The league is as balanced as it’s ever been.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS