Rockets blast past Mohawk in 2nd half
Warriors’ offense struggles as historic season comes to end
BOWLING GREEN — In tournament wins over Calvert, New Riegel and Arlington, Mohawk averaged 55.7 points per game.
On Thursday, Pandora-Gilboa proved to be a whole different animal.
The Warriors made just 11 of 39 shots (28.2 percent) and did not get much going offensively, falling to the Rockets 50-31 in a Division IV regional semifinal at Bowling Green State University’s Stroh Center.
“Obviously, coming into this game, we knew that they were a very good defensive team,” Mohawk coach Paul Dunn said. “You don’t give up 37 points a game over 25 games by not being really good on the ball defenders.”
Mohawk finishes its season 19-7.
“We felt like our defense was hanging with them,” Dunn said. “We’re a zone team predominantly and we came out and played man more than we usually do. We were able to contain them a little bit.”
The second half proved to be crucial for Pandora-Gilboa (25-1). After leading 17-14 at halftime, the Rockets scored the first five points of the half on two free throws by Cooper McCullough and a three-point play from Jared Breese — both players who were scoreless in the first half.
After Austin Tusing scored for the Warriors, another three-point play — this one from Eli Phillips, who was also scoreless in the first half — extended the lead to 27-16. Zach Hayman connected on two free throws, but Pandora-Gilboa’s Drew Johnson, McCullough and Riley Larcom scored in succession for a 33-18 lead.
“The good news was, we were up 17-14 (at half) playing the worst half of basketball we played all year,” Pandora-Gilboa coach Joe Braidic said. “I think we kind of wore them down a bit. Our size gave them some problems when they came in driving.”
Mohawk did score the last five points of the quarter. Hayman scored a three-point play and Cam Shellhouse’s layup after an offensive rebound sliced the lead to 10 points after three quarters. The Warriors committed seven turnovers in the quarter.
The Rockets halted any sort of momentum that Mohawk had when Cole Schwab scored on a putback just 17 seconds into the quarter. Mohawk could not muster any offense and watched McCullough score for a 37-23 lead.
“They started to switch screens on us,” Dunn said. “They’re such an athletic team that they have the ability to play five guys on five guys. They don’t have to be worried about a post guy that can’t guard a guard.”
The Warriors finally got in the scoring column when Tusing hit a corner 3-pointer, but a three-point play from Larcom pushed the lead back to 14 points. A score from Hayman with 4:21 left cut the margin to 40-28, but that was the closest Mohawk got.
“Second half, we got a little turnover-happy,” Dunn said. “Drew Johnson did an unbelievable job inside of contesting our guards. We’re led by our guards that are really good at getting in the paint, but when you have a 6-foot-(five) kid down there — that’s something we haven’t seen all year with that kind of athletic ability.”
The Warriors, who made all six free throws they took in the first three quarters, missed four of five attempts in the final eight minutes. Meanwhile, Pandora-Gilboa made 6 of 11 shots in the fourth quarter — the same amount of makes and attempts as it took in the third quarter.
“Our inside game wasn’t what it usually is and that’s a credit to them,” Dunn said. “Eli Phillips did a good job inside and he’s a very physical kid. They did a good job of containing probably our best 3-point shooter on the team, Ryan Lacey. They really focused on him and that really took us out of our rhythm and took us out of our main offense.”
Hayman opened the game’s scoring with a driving layup and Mohawk took a 5-2 lead almost four minutes in when Keith Jenkins registered a three-point play.
Larcom responded with a triple to tie the game and three free throws by Johnson gave the Rockets an 8-5 lead. Larcom added a bucket with two seconds left in the quarter to give Pandora-Gilboa a 10-7 lead after eight minutes.
“I thought we came out a little nervous to start, but I think they did too,” Braidic said. “Luckily, we could rely on our defense.”
Hayman made two free throws more than two minutes into the second quarter to get the Warriors within one point. The Rockets opened a 14-9 lead, but a driving layup from Jenkins kept Mohawk close. The lead was 17-11 when Kaiden Hammer hit a 3 from the right side, slicing the Pandora-Gilboa lead to three points at halftime.
Larcom paced the Rockets with 14 points while McCullough had 10 points. Johnson tallied nine points, seven rebounds, six blocks, and three assists.
“We talked all week about the fact that they are an aggressive team on defense and trying to utilize that and make flashes to the basket,” Dunn said. “They did such a good job of playing help defense that the backdoor cuts that we were looking for, and the flashes to the middle of the paint — they just really weren’t there.”
Hayman’s 13 points led Mohawk. Hammer scored six points and grabbed four rebounds while Tusing and Jenkins each scored five points.
“They did a good job in the paint and making it tough on us when we got in there,” Hayman said. “(Johnson) had six blocks and that makes it tough with his presence in there. They did a good job of making it tough on us.”
Mohawk finishes its season with a school-record 19 wins and it’s first district championship. The Warriors graduate just four seniors, only one of which started. Four starters will return for Mohawk next season to try to improve on what was a good tournament run.
“I wanted to make this school a basketball school, because I know we’ve got athletes in there,” Dunn said. “I know we have kids that love the game and it’s just trying to get them to believe that they can do that.”