It took the Mustangs (20-2) 24 minutes to play somewhat like the Lynchburg-Clay faithful are used to seeing on the basketball court. The Mustangs traveled to Waverly High School on Tuesday night to open up their tournament run against the 15 seeded Northwest who had one win to their credit at the time of the draw. As the night started, the Mustangs were definitely not themselves.
The game started with a layup by Devin Pierson who led the Mustangs with 15 points. Northwest answered by scoring two quick baskets themselves to take a 4-2 lead. The Mustangs created some havoc for the Northwest guards in the first quarter, keeping them from getting the ball across the halfcourt line before the ten second time limit twice.
Over the next three minutes, the Mustangs were able to create some distance with a 5-0 run with baskets from Zach Blankenship and Joe Giordano, and a free throw made by River Mullins. Northwest scored again at the 1:30 mark in the first but after that, Devin Pierson went on a run of his own with one made bucket and a four-for-four from the free throw line to bring the quarter to a close with the Mustangs up 13-6.
In the second quarter, things didn’t get any prettier for the Mustangs as they matched their first quarter total with another 13 points, but the typically fast paced, up and down the court action was nowhere to be found. However, as the buzzer sounded for halftime, the Mustangs held a 26-14 lead.
In the third quarter, the Northwest player decided to mount a comeback and they were almost successful. As the quarter went along, Northwest chipped away at Lynchburg’s lead little by little. Then, with 2:02 remaining in the quarter, Northwest made back-to-back threes to bring their total to 30, just four behind Lynchburg’s 34. The Mustangs were able to close out the quarter with a made free throw by Christian Inman and a basket with ten seconds to go from Josh Ahrmann to go back up by seven at the end of the quarter.
In the fourth and final quarter, the Mustangs finally got back to where fans were accustomed to seeing them play this season. The quarter started with the Mustangs going on a 9-0 run to create a wide distance, a distance that Lynchburg would keep adding to as the quarter went on. In the end, the had tallied 19 points while holding their opponent to just six to bring home a 56-36 victory.
“When you’re playing in the tournament everything that’s happened before now, whether you’re 1-19 or 19-1, everyone is 0-0 when you start the tournament,” said Lynchburg-Clay Head Coach Matt Carson after the game. “It’s the one-and-done season. You have to be ready to bring it from the tip-off and we weren’t ready to bring it from the tip-off. In fact, we weren’t ready to bring it for about the first 24 minutes. I’m the head coach, so that falls on me. I don’t know if I didn’t give them enough sense of urgency, but we’re going to have to find that quick. I think they will, we’re going to have a good three days of practice and come out Saturday and have a much better effort than we did tonight.
“Most teams this year are going to zone us up and try to slow it down and [Northwest] did that early. That kind of stuff is maybe going to take away from your opportunities to score but what I was upset with was when we had the ball on our side in the offense, we weren’t doing what we have talked about for the past two weeks as far as establishing the ball in the paint, getting guys posted up. Every time we did that tonight we scored. We’ll have to make a better emphasis on that in practice.
“I will give the guys credit in one aspect tonight. I told them after the first three quarters that they hadn’t given us the effort we needed in the first 24 minutes but that I needed them to do that the last eight minutes. It wasn’t 100% where I wanted it to be, but it was close.
“This time of year, you just want to be fortunate enough to survive and advance. We did that tonight so hopefully we’ll come out Saturday against whoever we play wit our best effort and hopefully walk away with a trip to Athens.”
LCHS – 13 13 11 19 – 56
NWHS – 6 8 16 6 – 36
Lynchburg-Clay: Pierson 5 5/6 – 15; Mullins 3 7/9 – 13; Giordano 2(2) 1/2 – 11; Blankenship 2 3/5 – 7; Ahrmann 2 3/4 – 7; McLaughlin 1 – 2; Inman 1/2 – 1. Totals: 15(2) 20/28 – 56.
Northwest: Leslie 7 2/7 – 16; Taylor 1(2) – 8; Logan 2 2/4 – 6; Smith 1 – 2; Rowe 1 – 2; Murphy 1 – 2. Totals: 13(2) 4/11 – 36.
Reach Robert Stegbauer at 937-393-3456 ext. 1679 or on Twitter @RStegbauer.