Owen Davis (13), of North Union, leaps for a rebound during the second quarter of the Wildcats’ post-season opener against Amanda-Clearcreek. Davis went out with an injury during the Cats’ 71-55 win. (Journal-Tribune photo by Sam Dillon)
In an unusual post-season opener on Tuesday, the Division III Central District third-seeded North Union boys basketball team faced ninth seeded Amanda-Clearcreek, the team that knocked NU out of the tournament last season.
This year, the Wildcats got their redemption with a 71-55 win and NU head coach Brian Terrill couldn’t have been happier.
“Amanda (Clearcreek) could have gone six different directions (during the tournament draw),” he said. “They could have had a home game.
‘They could have played two teams with losing records and made it to the district semifinals. Instead they chose us and I took it personally.”
In order to prepare for the game, Terrill went deep into preparing and scouting to try and get the edge on a team that felt it had an upper leg.
“I spent more time on this game plan than I have in 25 years on any other team,” Terrill said. “They run 17 different sets and we blew up pretty much every one of them. I’m really proud of the kids in how they bonded with the game plan.”
The scouting and preparation was felt early on as the Wildcats worked the ball low on a regular basis to post players Zach Vernon and Harley Day.
They each tallied four points in the opening quarter.
Terrill said the credit also goes to his outside shooters, who have been snipers during the regular season.
“The thing we’ve got going for us is we have shooters in both corners,” he said. “Teams are coming out hard on our shooters, so we are running our bigs down the middle.
“Other teams’ posts guard us one-on-one and our bigs are playing well,” Terrill said.
The offensive strategy played out well for the Wildcats who took a 14-10 margin by the end of the first quarter.
North Union stepped up its offensive tempo during the second period.
Vernon received a heavy dose of passes from the guards. He tallied six points from the field and drained a pair from the line.
Connor Terrill lent support from the outside, draining back-to-back treys.
As a result, NU extended its lead to 35-22 by the half.
Terrill said he was happy NU stepped up to the early tournament pressure.
“They (Amanda-Clearcreek) are a pretty good team, but when a three seed has to play a nine seed in the first round they are calling you out,” he said. “Our guys manned up and I’m happy about that.”
The Wildcats, who have been using a solid pressing defense all season, saw the strategy pay off by coming up with five turnovers in the third quarter.
NU converted those miscues into points, as Preston Crabtree scored six points from the field.
Connor Terrill buried his third trey and Aaron Krebehenne sank a buzzer-beating three from the corner to lift NU to a 51-34 spread.
Terrill said the solid press helped the Cats keep a tight hold on their lead.
“I thought we mixed our presses well,” he said. “I really thought outside the box and got some things going now.
“I’m happy with the way it is looking.”
North Union continued its strong defense and smooth shooting during the final eight minutes.
Crabtree made sure the Cats kept their lead by knocking in seven points.
Trevyn Feasel played well on the boards with multiple rebounds.
The frustration started to mount for the Aces.
With only half of the fourth quarter remaining, the visitors drew a technical foul. Connor Terrill sank the two free throws to help North Union turn in a 16-point spread and move on to the sectional finals against West Jefferson.
Coach Terrill said West Jefferson is a team that likes to play a slow defensive tempo.
However, he feels there are advantages for NU.
“We’ve got advantages, but they (West Jefferson) are a good team,” Terrill said. “They’ve got a lot of streak shooters, so it kind of scares the coach.
“They have a good point guard and a big post player.”
The game is scheduled for Friday. 7 p.m., at North Union.
Crabtree 8-3-20, Vernon 7-2-16, Terrill 4-4-15, Day 4-2-10, J. Krebehenne 2-1-5, A. Krebehenne 1-0-3, Davis 1-0-2. Totals 27-12-71.
Three-point goals: Terrill 3, Crabtree 1, A. Krebehenne 1
Balin 7-4-21, Madison 3-2-10, Stevens 4-0-9, Connell 2-2-8, Miller 3-1-7. Totals 19-9-55.
Three-point goals: Balin 3, Madison 2, Connell 2, Stevens 1
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