The Hall boys basketball team survived a monster first half by Erie-Prophetstown’s Eric Robinson by using a suffocating zone defense in the second half to come away with a 62-51 victory over the Panthers Friday in a Three Rivers Conference East Division game in Spring Valley.
The Red Devils led 15-12 after the first eight minutes, but the Panthers fed Robinson all throughout the second quarter and he dialed up 17 points in the period for a dominating 35-26 halftime lead.
“There was no typical halftime Red Devils yelling,” laughed Hall coach Mike Filippini said. “I was OK with the effort, but we just needed to make some adjustments and see what happened.”
To start the second half, it looked like it was going to be more of the same as Robinson picked up an offensive board and a putback for a 37-26 advantage.
The next time down the floor, Trez Rybarczyk hit the pull-up jumper and later Tyvon Epps scored on a drive to cut it to 39-32.
After a Red Devils’ timeout, Hall started to see its zone defense working to perfection on Robinson as the Panthers were unable to even get the ball into him in the post, and the Red Devils began getting some steals.
The trio of Payton Plum, Cole Wozniak and Rybarczyk guarding and fronting frustrated the Panthers.
Plum drove and switched hands for a layup, which made it 39-36 and caused an Erie-Prophetstown timeout.
As the Panthers struggled to get the ball into Robinson, they also struggled to decide whether to shoot or where to pass.
That led to an awkward shot and Plum rebounded it and went coast to coast for a bucket to cut the Panthers’ lead to 39-38.
“I have to give credit where credit is due,” Filippini said. “My assistants Tom Keegan, Erick Fuentes and Brian Green deserve all the credit with the zone defense. There were so many times I wanted to switch back to man to man, but they kept saying stay with the zone, so we did. I’m glad they’re smarter than me and I’m glad I listened to them because we really shut down Robinson, who is a heck of a player. Payton, Cole and Trez really did an outstanding job on him.”
Wozniak hit some big shots as he tied the game at 41-41 with a 3-pointer and then stole the ball, missed a shot but got his own rebound and a layup for the lead.
The Hall defense continued to shine, which led to a nice dish from Rybarczyk to Epps for a bucket before Epps drove past two defenders and avoided the outstretched arms of Robinson to give the Red Devils a 47-41 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Epps continued his strong play in the fourth as he missed a shot, but quickly stole the ball from Robinson and converted it into a basket.
Robinson finally was able to get a rebound and putback to end his drought, but Hall responded with Rybarczyk getting an offensive board and putback before Epps got a layup after the Red Devils produced yet another Panthers turnover.
“I can’t say enough about our guys,” Filippini said. “Trez was excellent again and Cole hit some big shots and Epps is just a great athlete. All the guys also went right at Robinson and made some tough shots, and that’s just a tribute to how hard they worked and the athletic guys that they are.”
Dawson Haagard hit a 3-pointer and Robinson got an easy layup off a rebound as the Panthers cut the Hall lead to 53-47.
After Plum split two free throws, Wozniak passed up a 3-point attempt and stepped up to hit an 18-foot jumper before Rybarczyk drove the next time down the floor and banked a shot in for a 58-47 advantage.
Two plays later, Epps went up and reached all the way under the basket for a reverse layup as Robinson looked for the block and the Red Devils came away with the 62-51 victory.
Hall had three players in double figures with Rybarczyk leading the way with 18. Epps had 16 and Wozniak added 12 to go along with nine rebounds. Robinson led all scorers with 29 for the Panthers.
Brad Martin Sr. can be reached at 220-6939 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.