GRANGER TWP. — When in doubt, attack.
The Cloverleaf boys basketball team was hanging around Friday with Suburban League rival Highland for a half due in large part to the interior efforts of junior center Dillon Mullins.
Once Mullins picked up his third foul with seconds remaining in the first half, however, the Hornets smelled blood.
Senior power forward Alec Withers and junior point guard Tanner Houska took care of the rest as they attacked the Colts’ 2-3 zone and led Highland to a 74-48 victory that wasn’t nearly as bad as the final score indicated.
Houska and Withers scored or assisted on 24 of the Hornets’ 25 third-quarter points and helped push a five-point lead to 18 after 24 minutes.
“We starting pushing the ball a lot more, got rebounds and defensively we were a lot better,” Withers said. “In the third quarter, we pushed up the floor and got easy buckets.
“We were playing slow. If anything, (the close first half) motivated us to come out in the second half and play our game.”
The 6-foot-5, 235-pound Mullins (12 points, 8 rebounds) was dominant in the first half with 10 points and seven boards. The size advantage was glaring, as Mullins had at least 40 pounds on Highland center Brogan Scott (14 points, 10 rebounds) and 4 inches on backup Tyler Frederick.
On over-the-back call with 15.3 seconds left in the half then limited Mullins defensively the rest of the game. Highland (5-3, 3-1) countered at the other end by implementing a half-court trap that prevented the Colts guards from getting Mullins the rock.
It worked like a charm. Mullins, who entered play averaging 15.8 points per game and is already in the conversation for most improved player in Medina County, had just four half-court touches in the second half, with three of them coming outside the 3-point line.
“That took us out of the game a little bit with Dillon not getting the ball down there,” Colts coach Marty Ryan said.
With interior defense of Cloverleaf (1-6, 0-4) forced to relax, Houska (13 points, 7 assists) and Withers (11 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists) went to work and combined for 12 points and five assists in the quarter.
By driving to the rim against the 2-3 zone, other aspects of Highland’s offense opened. Scott had five points and three rebounds in the period, while Ben Hauser scored all eight of his points.
The momentum carried over into the fourth, as the Hornets were 17-for-27 from the floor in the second half, when they also shot 2-for-5 from beyond the arc and 7-for-10 at the free throw line.
It was a clutch turnaround to help move them into a tie for first place in the SL after Green (3-2, 3-1) was stunned by Revere.
“We knew (Mullins) wasn’t going to try and block as many shots, so we attacked him as much as we could,” Houska said. “With him standing straight up in the second half, it was a lot easier to finish around the hole.”
Despite losing by 20 points for the third time this season, the Colts had plenty of positives. Power forward Troy Kapeluck had four points and seven rebounds in his first varsity start and guards Ryan O’Callaghan, Adam Podolak and Damian Tripp combined for 30 points on 12-for-25 shooting.
The glaring issue remains Cloverleaf has yet to put together four consistent quarters. It was tied with two-time defending SL champion Nordonia at halftime Dec. 10 but lost by 30 and trailed by five at recess Friday before watching the spread balloon to 26.
Injuries have a hand in that — starting power forward Connor Ploucha is out for the season and 3-point specialist Braedon Hansen played with illness — but Ryan believes the Colts are on the right path.
“We’ve got to take the positives and build on them,” he said. “We did play well for 2½ quarters, but we started making some mistakes. If we start limiting the mistakes and play four quarters like the first 2½, we’re going to start winning some ball games.”
|The home crowd cheered in appreciation when senior Mason Weiss, who is challenging for class valedictorian, scored his first varsity points on two free throws with 2:12 left.|
l Brad Kohmann also netted his initial varsity points and joined Colin Levandowski and Ethan Yerian as players to make their debuts.
l Yerian had 14 points as Highland’s junior varsity won 63-18. Jeff Gilbert had seven points for Cloverleaf.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or email@example.com.
Highland 74, Cloverleaf 48
CLOVERLEAF 17 9 12 10 — 48
HIGHLAND 18 13 25 18 — 74
Cloverleaf — Damian Tripp 4-3-11, Troy Kapeluck 1-2-4, Dillon Mullins 6-0-12, Ryan O’Callaghan 4-0-9, Adam Podolak 4-0-10, Andrew Jarrett 0-0-0, Matt Geig 0-0-0, Braedon Hansen 1-0-2, A.J. Timken 0-0-0, Garrison Flora 0-0-0. TOTALS: 20-5-48.
Highland — Alex Wood 1-0-3, Alec Withers 5-1-11, Brogan Scott 6-2-14, Ben Hauser 3-0-8, Tanner Houska 3-7-13, Zach Levine 2-0-4, Coltin Kinsey 3-0-6, Kevin Greenhoe 2-0-5, Tyler Frederick 2-0-4, Billy Kirchner 0-0-0, Mason Weiss 1-2-4, Joe Wiencek 0-0-0, Brad Kohmann 0-2-2, Colin Levandowski 0-0-0, Ethan Yerian 0-0-0. TOTALS: 28-14-74.
3-point goals — Podolak 2, O’Callaghan, Hauser 2, Wood, Greenhoe. Rebounds — Cloverleaf 24 (Mullins 8), Highland 33 (Scott 10). Assists — Cloverleaf 9 (O’Callaghan, Podolak, Tripp 2). Records — Cloverleaf (1-6, 0-4), Highland (5-1, 3-1). Junior varsity — Highland 63, Cloverleaf 18.