Owls back on track over Rock Bridge
As throughout much of the Marshall area, the power was off at the Harrold house Thursday.
That didn't prevent head coach Scott Harrold's Owls from generating some electricity of their own during a 60-53 NCMC victory over visiting Rock Bridge. Marshall sizzled the nets with 61.9 percent shooting from the field to prevent its first three-game losing streak of the season.
"This was a 'must' win," Harrold admitted.
With the Bruins focusing their attention on high-scoring junior Justin Durham, it took awhile for MHS' offense to warm up. However, junior Robbie Johnson -- whose assignment was to contain junior sharp-shooter Adam Guy, limiting him to nine points on three-of-16 shooting -- took over on offense, scoring seven of the Owls' first nine points.
"He played his best game at both ends of the floor," Harrold declared. "Coming out early, when they were in a 'box and one' on Justin, for him to go to the hole was huge."
Rock Bridge got a lift from senior Fu'ad Khaleel, who came off the bench to score four points on drives. Junior Scott Briedwell penetrated, also, to keep the Bruins close early.
"They were coming off screens and rolling toward the basket," Harrold said. "We were maybe a half-step behind them and the guys weren't getting there."
Three-pointers by Briedwell and Khaleel cut what had been Marshall's seven-point lead to one with 3:14 left in the first half, but Johnson found senior Marcus Yokeley on a back-door cut -- a play Johnson had converted twice off passes from senior Derik Lavers and Yokeley earlier in the period -- and Durham floated through the lane for a deuce to make it 25-21 at halftime.
"Most of our (half-court) sets ended up in scores," Harrold noted. "We're at a point now that the kids understand the offense and what they can do with it."
The Owls had trouble coming up with defensive stops midway through the third quarter, Rock Bridge making five of six shots, but it didn't matter. That's because the Bruins had no answer for Lavers.
Starting with an entry pass from Yokeley into the low blocks, Lavers went on a tear -- taking a steal in for a slam-dunk, hitting from the elbow, putting back an offensive rebound and finishing fine low-post moves on three successive touches to cap a 9-0 run. Lavers' 15 third-period points, along with a pair of blocked shots and four rebounds, gave Marshall a 10-point lead.
"He was intense on defense and it turned into intensity on offense," Harrold explained. "He was going to the hole strong and was confident."
Durham penetrated twice, Lavers made two layups and a traditional three-point play off a curl move by Durham extended the margin to 55-42 with 2:31 to go. Not much more than a minute later, that didn't appear to be nearly enough for the Owls.
The Bruins turned up the heat on their press and were rewarded: a steal and bucket by Guy, put-backs by senior Taylor Reid and junior Jason McCartney and a pick and layup by Khaleel within a span of 41 seconds. Khaleel's long jumper cut the deficit to 57-53, though the scoreboard erroneously showed 60-54, with 1:13 left.
"We didn't take care of the ball very well," Harrold explained. "In that situation, we know a team's going to be slapping at us and we've got to hang on to the ball."
Johnson made two free throws and -- although Durham and Lavers missed the front ends on one-and-one opportunities -- Rock Bridge was out of ammunition, missing four bombs and having Durham take away a dribble on its final five series.
Khaleel had 13 points, Reid produced 11 points, seven rebounds and four assists, and McCartney had 10 points for the Bruins (8-11, 0-3 NCMC). Lavers' 24 points -- 19 in the second half -- and eight boards led Marshall, with Johnson and Durham combining for 34 points and Yokeley and junior Erik Roehrs each dishing out five assists.
As was the case after previously losing back-to-back games, the Owls (15-5, 2-1) -- who host a hot Hannibal squad on Saturday, although Courtwarming festivities have been postponed -- came up with a skid-breaking win. This even after an ice storm kept them out of school for two days, usually a bad omen for Harrold's teams.
"After everything going against us, it showed a lot of character," Harrold remarked. "It was a bigger win that just beating Rock Bridge."