Jonathan Alder boys basketball coach Brent Cahill sat in the second row of a packed gymnasium last Friday night watching West Jefferson and London go head-to-head.
While watching the coach routinely would say out loud to himself what both teams were going to run just before they ran them, clearly this wasn’t his first time watching either squad play. Cahill was there on this night particular to get one last look at the Red Raiders, the team his squad would host on Tuesday, Jan. 22.
The Pioneers (7-4) were clearly ready for what visiting London would bring to the table and used their suffocating defense to shut it down en route to a rewarding 54-43 victory.
Cahill’s bunch held the explosive Raiders and their talented one-two punch of Zac Carey and Brok Bennett to a grand total of 16-second half points.
“Those kids average 20 each Bennett and Carey, we had to make it difficult on them and get them out of what they wanted to do,” Cahill said. “We had one guy in a zone, in the first half we weren’t in spots earlier enough, but in the second half we were. We held them to 16 points in the second half and Carey had five and Bennett had four, after they both had 11 at halftime. We gave up eight to the (Zach) Newman kid, but we were going to give up looks to their other guards just to get the ball out of their hands.”
The first half was an up and down affair. Alder getting baskets out of transition, while London was able to lean on Carey and Bennett to carry the way from the perimeter. Neither team had an advantage more than four points in the opening half and Alder took a 29-27 lead to the locker room.
The third quarter proved to be where the game was decided. The Pioneers were able to get out and extend their defense and force turnovers and when London did get shots up, they just weren’t falling.
“In the first half we were sluggish,” Cahill said. “In the second half we kind of played like we have for the last two or three weeks.
“We’ve got pretty good length on the perimeter and we’re not real deep but those guys have really good motors in Declan Thomas, Hayden Hess, Tanner Killian and Andy Koenig. Trey (Pugh) was good on their post guys, we did a good job of helping but not over-helping. They can hurt you with those guys if you over-help.”
London (9-5) who had won five straight heading into the game just couldn’t get into anything in the second half, coach Darren Long said it was a multitude of factors that led to the outcome.
“We weren’t aggressive on offense and we weren’t scrappy on defense tonight,” Long said. “I’m never going to question our hustle and effort, but that little bit of scrappiness we had for a couple minutes in the fourth quarter, if we play with that throughout the whole game it would have been a different outcome.
“Give Jonathan Alder credit, they knew what we were doing, they have been to enough of our games. I told the kids at times we’re not going to be able to score points and tonight was one of those nights.”
Carey (16) and Bennett (15) combined to score 31 of the Red Raiders’ 43 points. Alder got a balanced scoring attack as Hess (15), Pugh (12), Andy Koenig (10) and Killian (nine) all had solid nights.
“In the second half we got a lot off of our transition game because we got stops,” Cahill said. “Our primary break got going and that’s how we got that cushion in the third quarter. We are young but found a way to get it done down the stretch against a bunch of seniors, doing it with a bunch of freshmen and sophomores. This is a good win, that’s a good team over there.”