Big Red captures Round 1

STEUBENVILLE – Big Red’s play-fast brand of basketball claimed another victim Saturday before an overflow crowd at The Crimson Center.

Scoring points off turnovers, in the paint and behind the arc, Mike Haney’s run-and-gun club rolled past Catholic Central 77-54 in Round 1 of the annual city championship series.

Four players reached double figures for Big Red, which improved to 7-2. The winners turned six Crusader ball-handling miscues into points and knocked down 31 of their 51 field goal tries. Eight of the makes came from three-point land.

“Coming in we knew the game plan, we couldn’t play Big Red style basketball,” Central’s Sean Tucker said. “We couldn’t get in a track meet with them, they’re that good. We needed to slow things down and play our style.

“At the beginning, we did that. Then we got off kilter a little and we started to fall into their game.”

The Crusaders, who tasted defeat for just the second time in 10 outings, were down by two late in the opening period following a Matt Martello basket. Big Red closed with a 5-0 run (Tajuan Lawson swished a triple and Chris Smith scored in the paint) to grab a 15-8 lead.

Big Red, behind the play of Brandon Herring-Hill, built a double-digit advantage midway through the second quarter. He recorded a conventional three-point play, sunk a free throw then buried a triple to put Haney’s cagers on top 29-16. Adam Sterling also contributed a key make from downtown. Big Red’s Periogn West and Central’s Michael Barber traded “and ones” to make it 32-19 at the half.

West caught fire in the third stanza, scoring 10 of his team’s 22 points. Central, thanks to eight points each from Zach Herrington and Ryan Fletcher, was able to stay within striking distance by recording 21 markers of its own.

“In the second half, we did what we needed to do offensively,” Tucker noted. “We made adjustments, we attacked the basket (Fletcher recorded all of his points in the paint) and we scored. The problem was we were trading buckets with them and we couldn’t do that.

“Hats off to Big Red. Their kids have worked hard and they shot the ball well. They were very patient when they needed to be and they scored at will.”

Lawson scored Big Red’s first seven points of the final period as the hosts put the game out of reach. A conventional three point play by Mylik Young increased the margin to 23.

“It definitely was a good win,” Haney said. “The kids played really hard and I thought we played well defensively

“We were hoping to get more turnovers (Central had 11) but they did a good job of handling the ball. They have a great coaching staff and that’s why they only had one loss coming in. It seemed like when we did create turnovers, we actually scored off them.”

For the night, Big Red was eight of 16 in three-point attempts.

“It seemed like we were getting open looks, getting our feet set and were able to knock them down,” Haney continued. “We tell our guys to penetrate and kick it out. Tonight, we did a good job of kicking it out and hitting the shots.”

West paced Big Red in scoring with 21. Lawson added 14 to along with six assists. Young had 11 and grabbed a team-high six rebounds. Herring-Hill finished with 10.

“Different guys were taking turns stepping up today and a lot of that seems from senior leadership,” Haney noted. “Herring-Hill (a junior) came up big in the second quarter and that definitely helped.”

Herrington recorded a double-double for the Crusaders, getting 21 points and 13 rebounds. Fletcher finished with 17. The Crusaders finished 19 for 46 from the floor.

“We allowed them to run their transition offense and we preached we couldn’t do that,” Tucker pointed out. “They played their style, run the floor, run the floor. They’re good that that and we let it happen. Plus we didn’t stop the ball inside.

“The great thing is we get back in the gym Monday, we practice, we correct these things and we focus on playing Toronto Tuesday. Our kids know what they did wrong. They understand we lost because we played Big Red’s style of basketball. We’ll stick together, we’ll rebound and we’ll be alright.”

The Crusaders will travel to Toronto Tuesday while Big Red hosts Weir High before traveling to St. Clairsville on Wednesday for a big showdown with the powerful Red Devils.

Game 2 of the city championship series will be played Jan. 18 at the Mickey Barber Gymnasium.

“It’s always big anytime you play someone you know,” Haney said. “You always want to beat your friends.”