NEW MADISON- The Tri-Village Patriots opened the 2016-17 basketball season looking for a fifth consecutive Cross County Conference title. The “Drive for Five” commenced Friday night with the opposition of the Mississinawa Valley Blackhawks at “The Battleground.”
The Blackhawks were looking to establish a new identity with few players with varsity experience. Led by Gavin Richards 31 points, the Patriots dominated the contest coming away with an 80-24 league victory.
Tri-Village seized command of the game from the outset. While their offense was performing at a high level, the Patriot defense set the tone of the contest. 6-foot 5-inch senior forward, Trace Couch sent a message early to MV by blocking three shots on the early Blackhawk possessions. Then, Tri-Village unveiled a full court man-to-man press that forced MV into turnovers. This combination allowed the Patriots to jump out to a 19-4 lead at the end of the first period and a 42-11 half-time advantage.
“Thought defensively we exerted our will a little bit early,” said Patriot Coach Josh Sagester. “Our strengths are our length and athleticism. Thought we played really hard.”
On senior Richards, Sagester said, “Gavin is really good, especially when making perimeter shots. He is very athletic and can get to the rim and plays strong.”
Concerning the man-to-man press, Sagester talked about playing to the match-ups and that “having a goaltender in the back makes it easier to extend the defense.”
That goaltender was Couch, who Sagester said “was blocking shots, rebounding and leading our break to get us out into transition.”
Another player praised was first year, junior point guard Dillon McCullough. “Did a nice job…we ask a lot of our point guard and he handled himself very had well,” said Coach Sagester.
The second half was much of the same. Tri-Village relaxed its full court pressure but still controlled the action. The Patriots used a 21-6 third quarter advantage to push the lead to 63-17 leading to the final eight minutes.
“They played well and we didn’t,” said Blackhawks Coach Tim Barga. “Are we better than that? Gosh, I hope so…Fundamentals is where we’re really slacking at…passing was poor, rebounding was poor, foul shooting was poor…I like my kids. We’re going to have to do something different than what we are doing.”
Richards led all scorers with 31 points with Couch contributing 17 and McCullough 14 for Tri-Village. Blackhawk scorers were Bowman 8, Perkins 8, Howell 5 and Dirkson 3.
The Patriots go to 1-0 on the season and in the CCC and Mississinawa falls to 0-1 overall and in the league.