November 22, 2012

Prep basketball roundup: 'D' gives Mountaineers a passing grade in opener

Good defense helped make up for occasional offensive sputters Wednesday as North Murray’s boys basketball team won its season opener under new coach Tim Ellis.

The Mountaineers picked up a 58-44 victory against Rockmart at Southeast Whitfield’s Thanksgiving Hoopfest, limiting the Yellow Jackets to four offensive rebounds in the game.

North Murray was “down 5-2 forever” before going on a run that led to an 18-7 lead at the end of the first quarter, Ellis said. Rockmart rallied to cut that edge to 29-24 by halftime, but Rockmart was held to a five-point third quarter to give the Mountaineers a 41-29 lead heading into the final period.

“We caused a lot of turnovers, but we couldn’t convert them. We missed a ton of easy baskets,” Ellis said. “Early season stuff. We missed a lot of free throws. But a win’s a win.”

Zach Vess led the Mountaineers with 14 points and eight rebounds, Austen Horn added 12 points and seven rebounds, Zach Sanford had 11 points and Brady Swilling chipped in 10 points.

But Ellis was most pleased with the team’s defensive effort — and its ability to cut down on second looks for Rockmart (0-2).

“They didn’t get a lot of easy shots. We guarded them really well,” he said. “But what I really, really loved was the fact that we only gave up four offensive boards. That, to me, is a huge stat.”

It was the first game as a varsity head coach for Ellis, who spent the past seven seasons as an assistant for Dade County’s girls, since he led Southeast’s boys from 2002 to 2004. The Mountaineers will play two more games this week in Ellis’ old gym, taking on Meadowcreek at 8:30 p.m. Friday in pool play and a to-be-determined opponent Saturday as the Hoopfest wraps up.

“We’re learning how to play together in a new system and it may take some time,” Ellis said. “But they’re willing and they’ve got a great attitude about it, so I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do Friday night against a good Meadowcreek team.”

In late action from Tuesday, the tournament’s opening day, Meadowcreek’s boys beat Rockmart 86-40, Gordon Lee’s girls beat Meadowcreek 70-62 and Southeast’s boys fell 66-52 to Gordon Lee.

In the latter game, a slow start proved costly to the Raiders, who trailed by 16 points in the first half. However, Southeast coach Jake Dickey was encouraged by his team’s second-half effort, which included outscoring the Trojans 14-5 in the third quarter and cutting the lead to five points with two minutes to play in the period.

“We had a pretty decent second half and won the second half by two points, so that was encouraging,” Dickey said. “Just that first half, we weren’t ready to come out for whatever reason. Everyone was a little jittery and trying to press too hard instead of being patient.”

Foul trouble didn’t help, either — senior starters Josue Quintero, Zack Ramsey and Gavin Hill each picked up three fouls within the first few minutes, Dickey said. However, Quintero still led the way for the Raiders in scoring, finishing with 14 points as well as five assists, while Hill had eight points, eight rebounds and three steals. Chaz Payne chipped in 10 points and six rebounds.

Daniel Brooks paced Gordon Lee with 27 points, going 6-for-7 on free throws down the stretch.

Wednesday’s other games at the Hoopfest — Tri-Cities girls faced Meigs County (Tenn.) and the host Raiders were set to play Campbell — were not completed by The Daily Citizen’s early deadline for today’s Thanksgiving edition.

The tournament will continue with girls bracket play and boys pool play on Friday before Saturday’s place games. For more on the tournament, please see Friday’s edition of The Daily Citizen.

Murray County boys 65, Lookout Valley (Tenn.) 44: A defensive adjustment and strong 3-point shooting helped the Indians bounce back from Tuesday’s season-opening loss at the Zaxby’s Thanksgiving Classic at Ridgeland High.

Dillion Cantrell was 5-for-9 from the 3-point line in a 17-point effort to lead the way for Murray County (1-1), while Dylan Hubbard added 13 points while going 4-for-5 on 3-pointers. The Indians finished 12-for-27 from behind the arc.

Murray County — which lost 70-62 to Ridgeland on Tuesday after holding the lead entering the final period — led 23-16 after the first quarter on Wednesday and stretched that edge to 39-24 by halftime.

“In the first quarter, we came out of the gate shooting the ball really well. Of our 12 3’s, we made half of them in the first quarter,” Indians coach Greg Linder said. “At the quarter break we adjusted our defense a little bit and it worked out pretty well for us.”

Linder said the Indians gave more defensive attention to 6-foot-5-inch post Kendall Porham, who finished with 13 points for Lookout Valley but only five after the first quarter.

“We doubled down on him and gave him some different looks and made hard to enter the post,” Linder said. “But the best thing we did was started taking charges on him. Every time he’d back us down, we would take charges on him and that really helped.”

Murray County held Lookout Valley to just seven points in the third quarter — the Indians led 52-31 entering the final period — and Linder was able to empty his bench, with all but two players scoring.

“After we lost last night, I was really proud of way our guys responded today,” Linder said. “I challenged them last night to come out and give same great effort. ... The guys responded really well to the challenge.”

Results from Murray County’s girls game against Ooltewah (Tenn.) at the Classic were not reported by The Daily Citizen’s deadline.

Both teams wrap up play in the round-robin event Saturday by playing Heritage-Catoosa, with the Lady Indians tipping off at 3 p.m. and the boys game following.

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