MINFORD — For once, with the Minford High School boys basketball team, let’s discuss the Falcons’ defense.
It’s no secret that — offensively at least — the Falcons have plenty of athleticism, experience, size, speed, scoring balance and attack-ability.
And simply put, Minford’s offense often overshadows its defensive capabilities, but those —as they needed to be —showcased front and center on Saturday night inside the Falcons’ Nest against the North Adams Green Devils.
In a non-league battle of one-loss squads, Minford never trailed for the game’s final 29 minutes and 17 seconds, led for the final 28:43, and stymied the Green Devils to only 29 points over the final three cantos —all en route to an important, and impressive, 58-43 victory.
The Falcons are now 9-1 while the Green Devils fell to 9-2, as —in a way —the Minford seniors gained a measure of revenge against North Adams, which defeated them in the Division III sectional championship two years ago amid the coronavirus-impacted campaign.
There were four lead changes through the opening four minutes and 17 seconds, and one tie at 6-6, as once Minford’s Myles Montgomery got a handle on things as he often does —the Falcons’ defense did the bulk of the heavy lifting against the Green Devils and junior standout Bransyn Copas from there.
Montgomery scored his five two-point goals all in the opening quarter, six-foot and seven-inch senior Joe Hannah hit a buzzer-beating top-of-the-key three-pointer, and the Falcons’ 14-point (30-16) lead with 3:15 to play in the second stanza was their largest of the half.
In the fourth frame, seven unanswered by the Green Devils got them to within 44-37 with seven minutes remaining —but they amounted only three more field goals the rest of the way, with Copas converting for his sixth and final field goal for a game-high 17 points.
Minford’s largest lead stood at 17 (58-41) only a minute earlier —as the Falcons kept Copas and company in large part in great check on Saturday night.
The Falcons’ field-goal advantage was 24-17, as three Falcons —Hannah, the sophomore Montgomery and senior Adam Crank —canned a pair apiece.
Still, Minford demonstrated defend-ability as well.
“It just a tremendous effort,” said Minford veteran head coach Josh Shoemaker. “North Adams runs really good offense, they move a lot, we were able to switch and extend, and for four quarters, we were able to stay with them. Credit to the kids for buying into the gameplan and really guarding as hard as they could. They did a good job on trying to stay in front, providing help-side and contesting shots.”
North Adams, truth be told by playing in the offensive-oriented Southern Hills Athletic Conference, isn’t used to scoring in the low 40s —compared to typical totals of the high 60s, even low 80s, and all 70s in between.
Copas posted his 17 points, but 10 were in the opening half including eight in the first period —including his two treys and 2-for-2 second-quarter free throws.
Jayce Rothwell had six field goals for a dozen points, but three other Green Devils combined only for 14 —Kamden Buttelworth and Carson Osborne with a two and a three apiece, and Dillon Ragan with an old-fashioned first-quarter three-point play and a split of fourth-quarter foul shots.
Shoemaker and his staff sent a handful of defenders to match up with Copas, but a key was keeping the Green Devils off the offensive boards —which they did for the game’s majority.
“The job was to run bodies at Copas, who is a great player, and Jeffery Pica was the best at it tonight. He, we really made Copas earn every point he got,” said Shoemaker. “Jeffrey just had a phenomenal effort defensively for us. He gives us that spark when guys get tired, to come in off the bench and really get after it.”
Bennett Kayser, the six-foot and five-inch Minford sophomore, corralled several of those one-and-out situations —as North Adams attempted a second-half charge.
It was met with mostly resistance from the Falcons.
“Late in the third quarter and all of the fourth quarter, Bennett really stepped up and had three or four rebounds, and we did a lot better job of focusing and holding them to one shot,” said Shoemaker. “Got some runouts for baskets too,”
Montgomery made threes in the second and third frames following his 10-point first-period barrage for 16 points—as actually four Falcons finished with 10 counters apiece, while junior Jeffrey Pica played primarily defense but did score a third-quarter field goal.
Kayser with five field goals, Crank with two first-half triples and two fourth-quarter baskets, Hannah with two deuces and two treys, and 6-4 sophomore Jackson Shoemaker with three baskets and 4-of-6 freebies finished with 10 points apiece.
Coach Shoemaker spoke of his Falcons’ fine balance.
Montgomery is the likely frontrunner for Southeast District Division III Player of the Year, but he hasn’t done it alone indeed.
“Myles started out so hot that first quarter, but North Adams did everything they could to get the ball out of his hands. They sent traps, they rotated, and Myles did a good job of distributing and letting the other guys step up,” said the coach. “When they did get the ball out of Myles’ hands, we were able to find the open guys and attack. Our guys made the right reads, especially in the fourth quarter. Myles got us going early, then the rest of the guys really stepped up and started scoring towards the end.”
And, towards that end, Crank converted a pair of runout layups, making it a pair of 13-point advantages (50-37 and 52-39) at those junctures.
With the 15-point triumph against another nine-win unit, the Falcons are looking every bit the part of a repeat top seed for the Southeast District Division III tournament.
Saturday’s showdown surely strengthened their resume —as they remain undefeated, and atop, the rugged Southern Ohio Conference Division II.
But gaining ‘Ws’ in these non-conference clashes are absolutely important also.
“This was a huge game and we knew that. We’ve played North Adams a lot in the past, and both teams have goals, not only in our league but tournament goals,” said Coach Shoemaker. “We’re playing hard, and it’s a by-product of playing really good teams, but we’re giving it our all and not looking too far ahead.”
* * *
North Adams 14 8 10 11 —43
Minford 20 12 12 14 — 58
NORTH ADAMS 43 (9-2)
Jayce Rothwell 6 0-1 12, Cody Hesler 0 0-0 0, Bransyn Copas 6 2-2 17, Kamden Buttelworth 2 0-0 5, Carson Osborne 2 0-0 5, Breestin Schweickart 0 0-0 0, Dillon Ragan 1 2-3 4; TOTALS 17 4-6 43; Three-point field goals: 5 (Bransyn Copas 3, Kamden Buttelworth and Carson Osborne 1 apiece)
MINFORD 58 (9-1)
Bennett Kayser 5 0-0 10, Adam Crank 4 0-0 10, Myles Montgomery 7 0-0 16, Jeffrey Pica 1 0-0 2, Bailey White 0 0-0 0, Josh Shoemaker 3 4-6 10, Joe Hannah 4 0-2 10; TOTALS 24 4-8 58; Three-point field goals: 6 (Adam Crank, Myles Montgomery and Joe Hannah 2 apiece)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2023 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved