NEW MADISON – After tying the game at halftime, the Trojans would go on a run out of the locker room and break the game open with hot shooting and a stingy defense to pull ahead with a lead that they would not relinquish. The team then showed patience as they stubbornly milked the clock with their lead and let the minutes bleed out – not leaving the Patriots enough time to rally back. It would be 60-52 win for the visiting Trojans.
The Trojans and the Patriots are two teams in the middle of the pack of the Cross County Conference standings. But this season, there is no clear cut team at the top of the league, so it is still possible for a team with 2 or 3 league losses to finish strong and have a chance at the title. In other words, there was a lot on the line for each team as they made their bid for the upper half of the league.
Both teams were in mid-season form – seasoned and ready to battle. The game was played at a frantic pace in the first quarter. Tri-Village was running the court and defensively both teams were making plays. There were back-to-back blocked shots at each end of the court. It was an emotional game as well as the loud stands were packed for a Friday night face off. The Patriots had the edge 11-6 at the first break.
Arcanum began to press a little bit and switched up its half court defense. Then they began to chip away at the lead. Carter Gray scored as the clock ran out on the half to tie the game 24-24 with a shot from the deep corner. He did not know it at the time, but his shot that ended the first half would start a run by the Trojans.
After halftime, the Trojans continued with that momentum. Gray, who had been held in check in the first half led the way in the second half scoring first with another 3-point shot as part of a 19 -0 run before Darrell Lee scored for the Patriots at 2:17. During this run the Trojans picked up the pace on defense as well, with several steals by the back court and Lane Byrne also had a pair of blocked shots.
“I have to give credit to my staff, they saw some things that we could take advantage of and recognized what the Patriots were doing defensively. Carter Gray got some confidence and Wade Meeks made some great passes. Our inside players did well during that stretch too – Evan Atchley and Lane Byrne,” said Arcanum coach Jim Melton.
The damage had been done at the end of the quarter as the Trojans had a 45-28 lead and they already were being deliberate on offense spreading out and working the ball around the perimeter. They were slowly bleeding away clock time. To make matters worse for the Patriots, they had three players with three fouls apiece and were already giving up bonus with a lopsided 7-1 foul disadvantage. So they were already sending the Trojans to the line.
“You can use that offense as a delaying offense, but it does open the floor and if you execute well, you can get easy shots,” Melton said.
Tri-Village made a valiant fourth quarter bid. Austin Bruner made a supreme defensive effort, creating several turnovers. Derek Eyer supplied the offense for the Patriots scoring 18 of his game-high 26 points in the final stanza. The Patriots had an 11-0 run of their own, but the Trojans shot well from the free throw line with Evan Atchley scoring 6 straight baskets during this stretch. Gray and Wade Meeks also got shots in from the charity stripe. Although the Patriots made a good run at the Trojans the clock management worked as they ran out of time and fell short.
“We knew coming in that there would be a lot of emotion,” stated Melton. “We made some adjustments on offense and defense in the second quarter. Hand it to the kids – they went out there and executed well. We are 4-3 in the conference right now. We will need a little help to get to the top. The best way that we can control our own destiny is just to win out.”
“Turnovers is what did it to us. We had five turnovers when they closed with us in the second quarter, then again in the third we had five turnovers during their run. That was a big difference maker in this game,” stated coach Tri-Village coach Mackenzie Perry. “But Arcanum is a good team, they played us well, it is a shame that we shot ourselves in the foot.
“Both Derek Eyer and Austin Bruner had good performances in the Patriots game,” Perry continued. “Derek Eyer worked hard for us, he put in extra effort this summer to get better at his game. And tonight he put out a great effort to try and get us back into this game. Austin Bruner had a good game on defense – he is like a water bug on the court – cutting back and forth. He tries to set the tone for us defensively and he put out a big effort to get us back into the game.”