From Staff Reports
As the chill and winter weather hit the area Saturday, North Murray’s boys basketball team had little trouble warming up.
Dalton, however, was left out in the cold.
Quick starts by the Mountaineers in both the first and second half along with Dalton shooting just 23 percent from the field added up to a 56-43 win for North Murray in the championship game of the Comcast Christmas Tournament at LaFayette High late Saturday night.
Tournament MVP Zach Vess led four different Mountaineers in double figures with 16 points as North Murray improved to 12-1 with more than a week off before starting its Region 7-2A schedule on Jan. 7 against Sonoraville.
“This was a big confidence booster tonight,” North Murray coach Tim Ellis said. “We’ve won three games in a row coming out of the holidays, and we were a little sluggish having played three games in three days, but we had a good first half and did enough in the third quarter.”
The Mountaineers were up 36-21 at the end of the first half and held Dalton (9-3) to just five points in the third quarter to take a commanding 20-point lead into the final frame.
“They shot 71 percent on two-point shots and we shot 25 percent,” Dalton coach Mike Duffie said. “They got good shots, and we took bad shots, but to their credit, they forced us to take those shots. We missed our first eight shots in the third quarter. We held them to 10 points in the third quarter and still lost ground. The kids battled, but we started slow and they didn’t.”
Balance for the Mountaineers certainly helped. With the 6-foot-5-inch Vess drawing plenty of attention in the paint, Ellis said he knew someone would have to take some of the scoring load off of the senior post. Several people did.
Austin Horne had 12 points, while Brady Swilling — also named to the all-tournament team — and Zach Sanford each had 10.
“I really thought this was Zach Sanford’s best all-around game of the year,” Ellis said of his senior point guard. “He handled the pressure very well, took some really good shots and didn’t force things when they weren’t there. He is really developing his game really well.”
Dalton was led by Alex Bautista, who finished with a game-high 21 points. Brandon Painter added 13 points, while the rest of the team scored just nine points.
Bautista and Robert Enck were named to the all-tournament team for the Cats.