Delta held first half leads on multiple occasions, however, each time they were countered by Fayette’s ability to attack the Panthers’ 2-3 zone as the Eagles pulled away down the stretch for a 55-37 win in boys basketball Friday.
“That’s the first we’ve seen an extended amount of zone this year,” said Fayette coach Todd Mitchell. “I thought our kids were patient offensively and we knocked down the open shots when they were there.”
The Panthers got a hoop off an inbound play for Hunter Tresnan-Reighard, plus Ashton O’Brien later buried a three-pointer, giving them the lead at 15-14 near the midway point of the second quarter. It turned out to be their last lead of the game.
Tanner Lemley scored inside for Fayette, then Clayton Pheils converted back-to-back steal and scores for the Eagles for a 21-15 advantage at the 2:20 mark. A minute later the senior forced another steal where he eventually got to the foul line and knocked down a pair.
“I told him at halftime I go, ‘you better watch out for the police afterwards they might want to arrest you for being a thief out there,’” said Mitchell on Pheils’ defense. “He played a really good game and the other kids fed off of that as well. It was a good team win.”
Seth Burres split a pair from the line for Delta, but a Trey Keefer putback basket with 55 ticks to go put Fayette up 25-16 at the half.
“The thing that I’m most disappointed in right now, the kids knew exactly, exactly, what they were going to see as far as what Fayette ran against 2-3 zone,” explained Delta coach Derek Sheridan. “There was no surprises. I think we knew they were gonna halfcourt trap us; we knew they were gonna press us a little bit. So, I was very, very, very pleased with the preparation we had. Because we had a whole week to prepare for them.
“Up to this period of time (in the season), effort hasn’t been a problem. And tonight, effort in the first half, was a major problem.”
Delta came out and scored the first seven points of the third quarter. Burres again went 1 for 2 at the line, then back-to-back treys from O’Brien got them within 25-23, forcing an Eagle timeout with 5:46 left in the frame.
The Eagles responded in positive fashion.
The team’s traded hoops on their next possessions, but Pheils followed with a long three, Lemley got a putback, and Keefer also stuck one back in to make the difference 34-25 in favor of Fayette after three.
Burres converted a drive to the hoop to begin the fourth, but Keefer countered with a triple for the Eagles. A Brady Wymer three-point play for Delta got it to 37-30, then Keefer scored inside and Pheils hit from deep to bump it back to 12 with 4:23 to go.
Fayette shot 37 percent (7 for 19) from three-point range as Keefer went 3 for 6 and Pheils 3 for 7. Lemley had the other trey.
“You’ve got to have that to open everything up,” explained Mitchell. “Especially we’re not very big, so it’s not like we are gonna be able to bang inside with their bigs unless we can draw their bigs up a little bit. It was good to see the kids shooting like that.”
The Eagles went 13 of 15 at the line down the stretch to ice the game. Keefer finished with 23 points, Pheils added 18 and Lemley 8.
Wymer and O’Brien paced the Panthers with 9 points apiece.
Sheridan hopes his team can learn a lot from this game and apply it to the rest of the season.
“Swanton pressed us the whole game and we did a great job. I didn’t think we did a good job, I thought we did a great job. So they proved they could do it,” he said, referring to his team’s struggles against Fayette’s full-court press. “But we’ve got to get back to staying in system I think is probably the best way to put it. Then defensively, we have got to stop watching the ball and then deciding to move. You’ve got to move on the fly of the ball. Great zone teams (darn) near beat the basketball to the receiver. And we weren’t there tonight.”
Fayette (6-3) hosts Pettisville tonight before traveling to North Central on Saturday. Delta (2-5) hosts Lake (0-7) Saturday.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010