WESTFIELD TWP. — Brogan Scott didn’t need to save the Highland boys basketball team this time.
Angry for nearly losing to three-win Akron North earlier in the week, the Hornets were intent on proving that was a fluke.
The result Friday was a 59-31 Suburban League triumph over one-win Cloverleaf.
Highland (13-2, 9-2) maintained a half-game lead over Green (12-5, 8-2), which defeated Revere 61-39 and travels to Wadsworth (10-5, 6-4) this afternoon, in the SL standings.
“It was really all about attitude because we didn’t want to take them lightly,” Hornets backup guard Coltin Kinsey said. “We got in trouble Tuesday (in a 47-45 win at North) for not taking warmups seriously.
“We wanted to come in and play serious and not focus on things outside of the game. We need to take it one game at a time, so we came in focused.”
Using their staple trapping defense to increase tempo, the Hornets held the offensively challenged Colts (1-16, 0-10) scoreless for a 7:28 stretch in the first half.
Cloverleaf ended the drought when Ryan O’Callaghan found a wide-open Dillon Mullins (13 points, 6 rebounds) underneath the basket, but Highland had already opened a 17-point lead by that point.
The Colts had more turnovers than field goal attempts until 55 seconds remaining in the third quarter. They finished 10-for-30 from the floor, including 1-for-9 from beyond the arc.
“A thing we’re good at is defensive pressure,” Hornets coach Michael Murphy said. “Sometimes our scores don’t indicate it, but that’s because we score a lot of points and get up and down.”
The usual suspects posted the usual numbers for Highland. Scott scored 10 points in the first 4:07 and ended with 19 points and nine rebounds, while fellow junior Tanner Houska had 17 points and five assists.
Houska had eight second-quarter points, but he and Scott took backseats to guys like Kinsey (3 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals) and versatile defender Alex Wood during the long Cloverleaf scoring drought in which the Colts committed 10 turnovers while taking half as many shots.
“That goes back to the (North) game on Tuesday as well,” Kinsey said. “What Coach Murphy really worked on in practice was the defense we really wanted to play, because we were playing it nonchalantly, you could say. That’s not how we played today.”
Cloverleaf kept the deficit respectable late in the third quarter after Murphy went to the back end of his bench. The Highland starters returned to start the fourth and flirted with a 30-point spread before exiting for good with 3:32 left.
The excitement was long over by that time, but the Hornets faithful cheered when sophomore center Joe Wiencek scored his first varsity points on a turnaround hook in the final minutes.
It wasn’t a perfect performance by any means — an 11-for-23 showing from the free throw line stood out — but Highland committed just nine turnovers.
More importantly, it isn’t taking anyone for granted with key SL games next week against two-time defending champion Nordonia (Tuesday) and Wadsworth (Friday).
“We talked about it before the game,” Murphy said. “There’s 22 games and you already let one get by, which we were fortunate enough to get the ‘W.’ This is the same situation where that could have happened, but they came out with passion and were ready to go.”
|Cloverleaf guard Braedon Hansen made his first career free throws with 46.1 seconds left. The junior’s first 112 points were from the field.
l Billy Kirchner (14 points), Kyle Marcus (12) and Brad Kohmann (10) reached double figures as the Hornets junior varsity won 76-38. Michael Martin had 13 points for the Colts.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or email@example.com.
Highland 59, Cloverleaf 31
HIGHLAND 18 12 11 18 — 59
CLOVERLEAF 7 5 9 10 — 31
Highland — Alex Wood 0-0-0, Alec Withers 1-3-5, Brogan Scott 8-0-19, Ben Hauser 1-1-3, Tanner Houska 7-3-17, Kevin Greenhoe 0-0-0, Tyler Frederick 0-3-3, Coltin Kinsey 1-0-3, Zach Levine 2-0-4, Billy Kirchner 1-1-3, Joe Wiencek 1-0-2, Mason Weiss 0-0-0, Collin Levandowski 0-0-0. TOTAlS: 22-11-59.
Cloverleaf — Braedon Hansen 3-2-8, Andrew Jarrett 1-2-4, Dillon Mullins 4-4-13, Damian Tripp 0-1-1, Ryan O’Callaghan 1-1-3, Troy Kapeluck 1-0-2, Matt Geig 0-0-0, Garrison Flora 0-0-0, A.J. Timken 0-0-0. TOTALS: 10-10-31.
3-point goals — Scott 3, Kinsey, Mullins. Rebounds — Highland 24 (Scott 9), Cloverleaf 23 (Jarrett 8). Assists — Highland 13 (Houska 5), Cloverleaf 6 (O’Callaghan 2). Records — Highland (13-5, 9-2), Cloverleaf (1-16, 0-10). Junior varsity — Highland 76, Cloverleaf 38.