SENECA — There’s a lot to be said for tenacity and the need to not lose, and with the Hall boys basketball taking on fellow unbeaten Newark at the Seneca Turkey Tournament on Friday, there was plenty of that on both ends of the court.
The Red Devils had just a little more.
After another solid first quarter helped the Devils roll to a 15-point lead early in the second quarter, the Norsemen slowly picked away by hitting big shot after big shot, slicing that margin to just three points on a trey by Austin Tollefson two minutes into the fourth period.
But then it was Hall’s turn to play big.
Payton Plym connected on four straight free throws to give the Devils a little breathing room and Trez Rybarczyk and Tyvon Epps each dropped in a bucket to stretch the advantage back to near double digits, enough to secure what became a 67-55 win over the Norsemen.
The victory — in which the Red Devils outrebounded Newark 48-32, placed all five starters in double figures behind Epps’ 15 — gives Hall a 3-0 mark, first place in the event’s Pool B and a spot in the title game at 7:30 tonight against Somonauk.
“Newark is an exact clone of us,” said Hall coach Mike Filippini, whose program placed first in 2007, second in 2010 and third in 2008 and again a year ago. “They’re all about dribble-drives and kicking out for 3s and that’s what we do every day in practice. We didn’t shoot well, but we got to the lane and finished. Tyvon did a great job in the second half. When he drives and jump stops, he’s such a great athlete that there’s not many who can stop him. He falls in love with the 3 as all of them do, but they all — Trez, too — did a better job in the second half of getting to the hoop and finishing.
“I’m really proud of the effort and getting all five starters in double figures is huge. One of the first speeches I gave these kids, I said that if we were unselfish, we were going to be really, really good and really tough to beat.”
Just as they had on Tuesday when they posted 34 points in the opening quarter against Mendota, the Red Devils started hot, sinking 9 of their first 15 shots for a 21-10 lead, then added three of their first six in the second to take a 27-12 edge.
But Newark stayed pesky, scoring 10 of the next 12 points while Hall cooled off to get back in it.
Its deficit stayed around 10 until consecutive 3-pointers by Alex Tollefson and a pair of free throws by Nathan Christian cut it to 51-45 through three periods.
A trey by Austin Tollefson after two straight offensive rebounds cut the Hall lead to just three with 6:16 left.
But Plym cashed in back-to-back offensive rebounds at the line before Rybarczyk converted a steal and Fuentes put back one of his missed free throws to take the Hall advantage back to 59-50.
The Red Devils made just 8-of-13 from the line in the fourth quarter and 13-of-22 for the game, but still held on due to Newark’s hurried 4-of-17 from the field in the final stanza.
“In the second half, I was really proud of the kids,” said Newark coach Rick Tollefson. “They played hard and there were a couple of times that we cut it to five or six with a possession, took a bad shot and they went back and made it eight. It’s just so hard because they’re a good team. I’ll tell you, if we ever start shooting, it’ll be scary … This team is capable of hitting eight (3-pointers) in a row, but they’re not in sync yet. I don’t know what we shot tonight, but it was pretty poor.
“That will come around, but that kind of effort we showed in the second half, that’s what we’re looking for.”
Reed-Custer 52, Mendota 23
In another Pool B contest, the Trojans trailed just 12-6 after one period.
However, Reed-Custer heated up early in the second, netting the first 10 points in the second and outscoring the locals 15-1 in the quarter to take control.
Emeliano Arteaga led the Trojans with six points, while Chris Sandoval, Gavin Glazebrook and Cole Stremlau each chipped in four. Gage Stamm led all scorers with 14 for R-C.
“We have to change the mindset that defense has to come first,” said Mendota coach Justin Jacobson. “We’ve talked about it preseason, we’ve talked about it in practice and we’ve talked about it in film sessions that our defense has to be what controls this team because our defense can feed our offense, but our offense won’t feed our defense. We may not be scoring, but we can stop teams from scoring.
“There are bright spots all around. Tonight, instead of short stretches in the first half, there were longer stretches throughout the entire game … It’s a learning process for them and for us, the coaches, and it will come.”
Charlie Ellerbrock can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com.