GRANGER TWP. — It wasn’t nearly as automatic as everyone wearing green thought it would be.
The Akron North boys basketball team gave Highland all it could handle for 2½ quarters Tuesday. The Vikings were winning every hustle play and the seemingly disinterested Hornets were struggling to gain any momentum.
Then again, all it took was a simple defensive adjustment and a volume-scoring third quarter from sophomore forward Brogan Scott for Highland to finish very strong in a 71-56 non-league victory.
“It was real sloppy,” Hornets coach Michael Murphy said. “It was an ugly game, I’m sure, to watch, to coach and to play. I thought we battled through it and did what we needed to do.”
Entering the third quarter tied at 32, Highland (7-4) used 6-foot-3 guard Alex Wood to initiate a half-court trap whenever versatile North forward Damon Bowman (16 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists) or Energizer Bunny point guard Marcus Robbins (13, 8, 2) touched the ball.
While it didn’t result in a lot of turnovers, other Vikings were forced to handle the ball. The plan worked to perfection — North was 8-for-26 (.308) shooting in the second half — and Scott took care of the rest by scoring 11 of his 16 points in the frame.
Bowman exited with 1:15 left in the third after picking up his fourth foul. Highland was up 50-40 at that point, and it never allowed the lead to reach single digits the rest of the game.
“We wanted to get it out of their best players’ hands,” Wood said. “I thought we did a pretty good job.”
Scott grabbed nine boards and dished out four assists. Tanner Houska scored 11 of his game-high 18 points in the fourth quarter to go with six assists, Brennan Scott added 10 rebounds despite not playing in the second quarter and 6-2, 260-pound Myles Houska kept the Hornets afloat mentally with five points and five rebounds, highlighted by a full-extension dive for a loose ball.
After going 3-of-14 from the floor and 8-of-16 at the line in the second quarter, Highland refocused and was 15-of-30 and 8-of-11, respectively, in the second half.
“We boxed out better, and that opened it up so we could run,” Brogan Scott said.
The first half was little short of a foul-infested, flow-killing disaster — “Nobody could get going,” Brogan Scott said — as the teams shunned half-court offense in favor of attacking the basket. The result was a combined 36 attempted free throws in the first half.
North hung around admirably behind 12 points from Bowman and nine points, six boards and two blocks from the 5-8 Robbins in the first half, as both players shined in one-on-one situations. The Vikings also owned a 25-15 rebounding advantage before the Scott brothers turned the tide.
The victory wasn’t a thing of a beauty by any means, but the Hornets will take it after being stunned in overtime at Wadsworth on Friday.
“Any win is so much better than a loss under any circumstance,” Murphy said. “We got it done.”
Kevin Greenhoe, the little brother of former All-Gazette Hornets point guard Alex Greenhoe and Brunswick guard John Greenhoe, scored his first varsity point on a free throw with less than a minute remaining.
• Ben Hauser and Billy Kirchner each scored 11 points as Highland’s junior varsity won 57-31.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or email@example.com.