Zach Vernon (2) of North Union goes up for a jump shot while Ayden Spriggs, right, and an additional Triad defender attempt to block his shot. Vernon tallied 11 points during the Wildcats’ 73-44 win over the Cardinals. (Journal-Tribune photo by Sam Dillon)
The North Union boys basketball team started slowly on Tuesday against non-conference opponent Triad.
However, a solid offensive showing during the second quarter propelled NU to a 73-44 victory.
The Cardinals got the early jump on the Wildcats when NU dunked the ball during pre-game warm-ups.
That drew a technical foul and put Triad at the line for two free shots and the ball before the tip-off. The Cardinals made one of those charity tosses.
The early momentum kept the Cards moving in the right direction.
Thanks to a pair of treys from Batai Lease and Dillon Nott, Triad took a 14-11 lead at the end of the first quarter.
North Union head coach Brian Terrill said the Cats have been struggling with their press, which has given opponents some easy looks at the basket.
“We are having a lot of issues with our press, “he said. “We are not pressuring like before and our back level guys are not reacting to the ball like earlier in the year.”
Triad’s (2-18) momentum was short-lived when the Wildcats found their groove and turned up the offensive heat.
Triad head coach Jason Malone said his team just got out of rhythm.
“We turned the ball over, North Union started to gain some momentum and we got impatient on offense,” he stated.
The Cardinals struggled from the field, converting three shots for seven points in the quarter.
The lack of conversions led to fast-paced transition basketball for NU and the Cats did not squander their opportunities.
NU’s shooters were out in full force, with baskets by Owen Davis, Aaron Krebehenne and Preston Crabtree.
The outburst turned a three-point deficit into a long run of points that gave NU a 35-21 margin at the half.
Malone said his team lacks comparable size and was mismatched down low.
“It is hard for us to match with teams, especially North Union, when they have (Zach Vernon and Harley Day) so much size and length,” he said. “It is hard for us to go man-to-man. We did at times, but got exploited on the boards.”
That board presence was felt in the third quarter as the Wildcats’ big men, Day and Vernon, tag-teamed the offensive glass for 10 points.
Davis got in on the mix and tallied four points.
Crabtree provided some nice shooting from the field for four points.
Triad’s Dillon Nott claimed his third trifecta, but NU’s up-tempo offense stretched its lead to 53-32 by the end of the third set.
Despite the loss, Malone saw some good efforts from his offense.
“We presented some match-up problems with our big guys in space,” he said. “We hit a gap or kicked it out to our shooters.
“Dillon Nott had some great shots early on and once he gets going, we don’t look very bad.”
The final eight minutes were just a formality for the Wildcats as they picked up 20 points.
Triad managed just 12 points during the set.
Terrill said it is always nice to win, but he would like to see his team clean up the early game.
“We just need to get back to winning four quarters,” he said.
The Cardinals will finish out their last two games of the regular season against West Liberty (on Friday) and Upper Scioto Valley (on Saturday) and then on to a tough post season.
“Post-season is going to be a big challenge,” Malone said. “We open up with (one -seed) Anna and they are going to be a lot like North Union.
“Our guys are resilient,” he said. “There have been times when we have been down and they have responded.”
The Wildcats look to keep their perfect season (19-0) in tack in their final two regular season contests.
NU travels to Graham on Friday and hosts Elgin next Wednesday.
The Cats will then start their quest with a tough draw in the post-season.
“This kind of a draw gives us a chance at a district (title), but it also comes with tougher first (ninth-seed Amanda-Clearcreek) and second round (16th- seed West Jefferson) games than a three -seed usually deals with,” Terrill said. “No doubt about it, our first round game is going be a battle, but we’ll be ready.”
Crabtree 6-2-16, O. Davis 4-2-11, Vernon 4-3-11, Day 4-0-8, Feasel 3-1-7, A. Krebehenne 3-0-7, Webb 2-2-6, Terrill 2-0-5, J. Krebehenne 1-0-2. Totals 29-10-73.
Three-point goals: Crabtree 2, o. Davis 1, A. Kebrehenne 1, Terrill 1
Campbell 4-1-10, Sizemore 5-0-10, Nott 3-0-9, Lease 3-1-8, Bails 1-0-3, Spriggs 1-0-2, Warner 1-0-2. Totals 18-2-44.
Three-point goals: Nott 3, Campbell 1, Lease 1, Bails 1
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