ARCANUM – It was like there was a lid on Arcanum’s basket during the first half Saturday night.
The Trojans failed to make a field goal the entire first half against Russia and found themselves down 22-3 at halftime. And even though Arcanum played strong defense and bounced back offensively in the second half, its first half shooting woes were just too much to overcome in a 55-31 loss.
“I didn’t see them put a lid on there to start it, but maybe they had a lid on the basket,” Arcanum boys basketball coach Marcus Bixler said. “But we had good looks. We really did. I think we counted 13 uncontested looks in the first half. We have to be able to knock them down. But I’m not complaining about the looks. I thought we were very aggressive, which is what we’ve been working on really since Miami East, is being aggressive and attacking. We were able to do that. Shots didn’t fall. Free throws didn’t fall. And that’s a big, athletic team that’s going to take away some things, and they did a good job of taking away some stuff the first half.”
Neither team could get much going early on with Russia holding a 2-0 lead when it called a timeout with 4:22 remaining in the first quarter. The Raiders then started to get going and took an 8-0 with scoring from Cole Tebbe and Josh York, but the Trojans’ shooting woes continued.
Arcanum was limited to a single free throw by Wade Meeks with 1:29 left in the opening quarter in the first eight minutes of the game.
Leading 9-1 through one quarter of play, Russia started off the second period on a 10-0 run to extend its lead to 19-1.
Cole Burrell made a pair of free throws in the final 30 seconds of the second quarter, but Arcanum couldn’t keep pace with Russia, who took a 22-3 halftime lead with a late 3-pointer by Lukas Busse.
While the offensive output was far from what Arcanum wanted in the first half, Bixler thought the Trojans did very well on defense in limiting the tall, athletic Russia squad to just 22 points.
“I thought we defended real well,” he said. “I was a little bit disappointed with the end of (second) quarter, giving up 3 off a free throw. But to give up 22 in the first half, we defended real well. Took care of business on the boards in the first half, struggled a little bit there in the second half. For us to keep this close and be successful tonight, you had to defend for four quarters, and the third quarter we did not guard. Not at all. They scored tons of points in the paint off offensive rebounds.”
Arcanum gave up 22 points in the third quarter as Russia added to its lead even more. But on the positive side shots finally started to fall for the Trojans, beginning with a Meeks basket in the opening minute of the second half.
With Meeks, Brandon Kinney, Devin Burns and Burrell each scoring in the third quarter, Arcanum recorded 13 points and found itself down 44-16.
The Trojans continued to show progress in the fourth quarter and outscored the Raiders 15-11 with offensive contributions from Meeks, Evan Atchley, Kinney and Burrell.
“I never doubt that. We’re going to (keep playing hard),” Bixler said. “When your senior captain (Burrell) is out there diving on the floor in the fourth quarter of a game … and that’s the way they’ve been. They’ve been that way the whole time. They know that’s what’s expected of them, and it would never be anything different.”
Despite the strong effort throughout the game and the improved offensive play in the second half, Arcanum couldn’t recover from its tough first half and lost 55-31.
Meeks led Arcanum with 12 points in Saturday’s loss. Also for the Trojans, Burrell scored nine points, Atchley scored four, Burns scored three, and Kinney scored three.
Tebbe led Russia with a game-high 14 points. Also for the Raiders, Clay Borchers scored eight points, York scored eight, Connor Monnin scored six, Caleb Ball scored four, Busse scored four, Jack Dapore scored four, Jonah Counts scored three, Trevor Monnin scored two, and Drew Poling scored two.
Arcanum fell to 1-2 with Saturday’s loss and will look to bounce back on Tuesday when it travels to Fort Recovery for a non-conference game.
“It’s a process for our guys,” Bixler said. “They continue to get better. We work on some little things each week of what we want to focus on and what we want to be able to do. And we realize it takes steps to get to where we want to be and to get to have a program like Russia has.”
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.