BASCOM - It was not the coach one expected to hear it from.
"It goes against physics," Old Fort coach Eric Hoover said at one point in the third quarter over a foul called on his team.
But it was probably his counterpart, Hopewell-Loudon coach Adam Smith, who should have been saying it.
It was his team that watched Old Fort appear in the Chieftains' passing lanes time after time after time.
He got to see the Stockaders execute the weave in the paint on one of its baskets.
It was Hopewell-Loudon that saw Hunter Perry execute a 30-foot bounce pass down the middle of the floor for one of his eight assists.
And in the end, the Chieftains couldn't slow down the inertia Old Fort got going early on as it cruised to a 51-31 victory.
"We were playing outside and passing around looking for the next jump shot. They gamble all over the place," Smith said. "They're in those passing lanes. That's why the middle of the paint is unguarded. We would not attack. It was like we played scared early."
The Stockaders (11-4, 6-0 Midland Athletic League) forced Hopewell-Loudon (8-8, 5-2) into 26 turnovers, including 18 in the first half. Sixteen of those turnovers came off Old Fort steals, including six from Perry.
"We probably lead the league in steals. I know Hunter and Brad (Bannister) are both the top two guys in steals," Hoover said. "We want to get out and pressure and force them into bad decisions. We did a nice job of everybody anticipating and being where they needed to be and getting in those passing lanes."
In a must-win game for the Chieftains to maintain pace in the MAL race, Hopewell-Loudon got off to a horrible start as the Stockaders jumped out to a 15-2 lead in the first six and a half minutes.
"It was very important for us, psychologically," Hoover said. "We just came off a couple of tough losses. To come out early is big for confidence and we were able to do that and build from there."
While Hoover felt the heat was on the Chieftains to win, his club couldn't afford to lose either.
"They're right behind us in the league. It felt like it going that they're looking at it as a must win," said Hoover, whose team trails Carey (7-0 MAL) by a half game. "They can't go two games back and Carey is going to be a tough team to beat for anybody so we kind of felt we needed to be undefeated going into that game also. It's just the nature of the league. You only get to play a team one time and you want to go out there, especially this being the last year, and compete with them, and find a way to win."
To complicate matters, Hopewell-Loudon's Ryan Lommerse and Garret Sendelbach got into foul trouble taking the Chieftain's chief scorers out of the lineup.
"That hurts. That hurts a lot," Smith said. "When Lommerse is not on the floor, it hurts us."
Hopewell-Loudon stopped the bleeding with a pair of buckets in the closing minute of the first quarter to cut it to 15-6. But it was short lived as Old Fort used a 10-0 run in the first four minutes of the second quarter to make it 25-6. Hopewell-Loudon cut it to 18 by halftime, 34-16, but the damage was done.
Smith said the early deficit wasn't as detrimental as it would have been two months ago.
"It didn't affect us as bad as it would have at the beginning of the year. We would have folded and got beat by 50," Smith said. "For as bad as we looked, we were able to regroup and compose ourselves at halftime. We settled down at halftime but I don't know why we were so wound up in the first half."
Perry had a remarkable all-around game with 18 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, six steals and a block.
"I told the guys I was proud as heck of the defense. I told them 'if you would have told me before the game, sign on the dotted line, Old Fort will have 51 and Hunter has 18, sign me up,'" Smith said. "I don't think we could have played them any better defensively. They average 70. I wish we could have made some free throws and attacked the zone."
Jon Lotycz finished with 12 points and seven boards for the victors.
Despite the foul trouble, Lommerse still finished with a team-high 15 points, eight rebounds and three blocks.