If you play basketball for Todd Mitchell, you’re expected to play hard.
Mitchell’s Fayette Eagles did just that, scrapping for loose balls, not giving visiting Antwerp many clean looks and even gaining a slight rebounding edge over the bigger Archers in a 59-44 season-opening win Friday.
“We have to work extra hard on the boards with our size disadvantage,” Mitchell said of his team’s work on the boards. “I’m really proud of our kids effort on the glass. We worked really hard at both ends of the floor rebounding and defensively. This was a good opening win for us against a really good Antwerp team.”
After Antwerp gained a 5-4 edge on Luke Brewer’s long triple with 5:44 left in the opening quarter, the Eagles held the Archers scoreless the rest of the way.
In the meantime, Clayton Pheils stuck a three-ball from the head of the key to give Fayette a lead they never gave back with 3:37 on the clock in the first.
Jose Aguilar bagged another from long range from the right side, then Jaxson Wentz rang up a third from outside with 4.6 ticks left that gave Fayette a 13-5 lead.
Pheils’ pair of lasers from outside and Noah Brinegar’s hoop and one extended the Eagle lead to 25-13 at the break.
Fayette’s scrambling defense harassed the Archers into 5 of 19 from the floor in the first half and in a game where possessions in the first sixteen minutes were at a premium, forced nine Antwerp turnovers.
Trey Keefer’s bucket on a backcut pass from Wentz to open the second half gave Fayette a 14-point lead which they matched at 32-18 on a pair of Keefer free throws and then again at 34-20 on another two by Tanner Lemley. In what turned out to be a second half march to the charity stripe, Fayette knocked down 17 of 21.
“I will take that from the free throw line every day and twice on Saturday,” Mitchell chortled.
Pheils fourth triple of the night countered the beginning of a second half scoring barrage by the Archers’ Jayvin Landers to keep Fayette up 37-25 before the Eagles again extended their lead in the fourth quarter.
Pheils, Keefer and Lemley accounted for all 18 Fayette points in the fourth, including 8 of 10 from the stripe to offset 13 points from Landers.
Lemley’s basket off an inbounds touchdown pass with 2:38 left gave Fayette their largest lead of the night, 55-39.
“We did a good job seeing the floor all night,” Mitchell said of the Eagles unselfish play. “We saw double teams coming and found the open man in a number of cases.
“Great team offense, great team defense, overall it was a great team win.”
Pheils topped all scorers with 22 while Lemley had 15 and Keefer 13 for the Eagles.
Landers led Antwerp with 21 and Brewer chipped in with 14.
Reach Joe Blystone at email@example.com