Ironwood Ridge is a team consisting of almost all seniors, and their experience and depth were more than enough in a 67-25 win at Pusch Ridge on Dec. 2.
Mitch Fischer led the way with 14 points, all in the first half. Alec Sonderman and Travis Jefferies added 13 each.
Sonderman also had all his points in the first half, before he was pulled out with Fischer and other starters.
“Our team is mostly made of seniors,” Sonderman said. “We’ve been together since middle school.”
The Nighthawks (4-3) broke out of the gate, scoring the first 14 points en route to a 21-5 first quarter lead. Many of the baskets were keyed by a pressure defense, which forced 22 turnovers, nine in the first quarter alone.
“We’re trying to generate baskets,” said Ironwood Ridge coach Brian Peabody. “We don’t have the guys who can beat you off the dribble.”
Andrew Dohm added nine points for the Nighthawks, while Jacob Hampton scored eight for the Nighthawks.
“I have eight or nine kids I’m comfortable with,” Peabody said. “We’ll have to share the basketball to be effective.”
The Nighthawks constantly shuffled players on and off the court, keeping legs fresh, and finding enough playing time for 15 different players to take shots.
“Our defense is better than last year,” Peabody said, and he pointed out that the team has 11 seniors on the 2011-2012 roster.
The Lions (0-5) are trying to make the transition, because of AIA realignment, they have been forced to play against larger schools like Ironwood Ridge.
Additionally, they find themselves lacking in experience.
Last year’s leading scorer, Jeremy Courtney, has been lost to graduation. Last season’s point guard Daniel McLeod, a whiz at seeing the whole floor, has also departed.
The Nighthawks defense pressured the Lions into a lot of ball handling mistakes.
“We have a lot of work to do,” said Pusch Ridge coach Dennis O’Reilly. “We beat the first part of the press. But then, the players were not seeing enough of the court.”
The Lions made some progress after the first period, as they reduced their number of turnovers, and got the ball to the shooters more.
“We didn’t handle the pressure,” O’Reilly said. “We started recognizing it after the first quarter.”
Caleb Spegman led the Lions with 10 points, most of them coming in the second half. Michael Houser had another seven.
“All we can do is keep working on things,” Spegman said. “We came out with more fire (in the second half).”
Defensively, the Lions held the Nighthawks to just two points in the fourth.
“Playing (bigger school) teams like this will improve us as players,” Spegman said. “We work hard in practice. It will come much better.”
Coach O’Reilly said the Lions know what’s wrong.
“We played better defense in the second half,” O’Reilly said. “We were contesting shots in the third quarter.”
For the Nighthawks, the only question was which was better, the offense or the defense?
In the first half, before pulling out starters, the Nighthawks made 17 field goals, and shot 60 percent from the floor. They also made 10-14 from the foul line, or 71 percent.
Fischer made 4-6 from the floor, and was 5-6 from the free throw line.
“We play run and gun,” Sonderman said. “Keep it moving fast. We have more depth this year.”
The Nighthawks were scheduled to play at CDO on Tuesday, Dec. 6 and will host Flowing Wells on Thursday, Dec. 8, at 7 p.m.
The Lions were scheduled to host San Manuel on Tuesday, Dec. 6 and will travel to CDO on Friday, Dec. 9, at 6:30 p.m.