Big Red advances past Potters

ST. CLAIRSVILLE – A strong second half along with some key contributions from the bench helped Big Red pass its first Division II sectional test Saturday.

Mike Haney’s fourth-seeded cagers shot a torrid 53 percent from the floor during the final 16 minutes, scored 40 points and cruised to a 69-42 victory over East Liverpool.

Thanks to the win, Big Red (16-6) will return to Ohio University’s Eastern Campus Wednesday for a second round 8 p.m. bout with Minerva. The youthful Potters (Nate Conley had just one senior on his roster) drop the curtain at 6-16.

Up 29-24 at the break, Big Red scored seven straight early in the third stanza to break things open. Brandon Herring-Hill, who saw considerable playing time for foul-plagued starters Tajuan Lawson and John Linn, accounted for four of the seven. Adam Sterling also came off Haney’s bench to play a key role in the burst, grabbing four offensive rebounds.

Another Herring-Hill hoop (he nailed all three of his field goal attempts) combined with points from Periogn West, Chris Smith and Mylik Young gave Haney’s troops a 49-34 lead heading into the final quarter.

Sophomore Lucas Herrington got the winners started in the fourth when he drained a triple. A 10-0 run (Herring-Hill started the burst and Linn finished things) put the tournament win on ice for Big Red.

The winners were 9 of 15 from the field during the third period and 7 for 15 during the fourth.

“We did a great job of taking the ball to the bucket in the second half,” Haney said. “We picked up our defensive intensity at the same time and that made a difference. Once we started to hit some shots in close, then a couple of threes fell for us.”

For Conley, the second half was all about intensity.

“We matched their intensity in the first half, then their intensity got to us in the second,” he pointed out. “We fought hard in the first half but we couldn’t keep it going.

“In the first half, we did a good job of controlling the rebounding. In the second half, we didn’t. We allowed them to get way too many second chance shots.”

Big Red, which earned two wins over East Liverpool during the regular season, appeared poised to blow the Potters off the Health and Physical Education Building floor early. A West three put Haney’s club up 17-4 midway through the opening stanza. The Potters, to their credit, just kept chipping away. Hoops by Austin Emmerling, Aaron Long and Hayden Cunningham allowed East Liverpool to close within seven (21-14) after one.

Early in the second, two Cunningham free throw makes put the score at 21-18. Big Red then reeled off six straight. A hoop at the horn by Ryian Burson made it 29-24 at the half.

During the opening half, the two teams were whistled for 22 fouls, resulting in 28 free throws.

“We were able to build that nice lead early then we had a couple of lulls when we were pressing,” Haney noted. “We gave up some easy buckets and had way too many fouls. Fortunately, they weren’t shooting well from the line (the Potters were just six of 14) but the ball was bouncing back to them.”

Young had a huge game for Big Red, getting 18 points, 12 rebounds (the winners had 45 as a team) and six steals. He also dished out five assists. West finished with 14 while Herring-Hill and Smith evenly divided 16.

“With the foul trouble we were having, the guys off the bench did a good job for us,” Haney, whose team recorded 13 steals, continued. “They basically had to finish the second quarter and play most of the third. Herring-Hill, Sterling (he suffered an ankle injury during the third stanza) and Herrington all stepped up for us.”

Long had 13 to pace the Potters. He also rejected three Big Red shots. Cunningham added eight. Derek Thompson, East Liverpool’s lone senior, grabbed eight of the 39 Potter rebounds.

“We have the foundation for the future and we have to continue to build on it,” Conley said. “You can’t buy experience like we got here tonight. Our goal next year is to come down here and win the whole thing.”

Earlier in the season, Big Red earned a 54-46 victory at Minerva.

“We played a tight game at their place and we didn’t shoot well against their zone,” Haney noted. “We’ll work on our shooting in practice, focus working against a zone and come ready to play Wednesday.”