By Josh Sigler
The Maconaquah boys basketball team was able to build a commanding 20-point lead in the first half of Friday’s road contest with county rival North Miami despite senior star center Micah Pier only playing a shade over five minutes due to foul trouble.
Pier made up for the lost minutes with a huge fourth quarter to help snuff out the Warriors’ comeback attempt, scoring 12 of his game-high 18 points in the final eight minutes to help lift Maconaquah to an 80-58 victory, its first under new coach Andy Steele.
“I got into [foul trouble] a little bit early, and it limited our size and ability to work inside,” Pier said. “I look at the fourth quarter, and I came off the bench ready. I didn’t want them to get back in this game.”
The Braves (1-1) hit North Miami with an early haymaker courtesy of junior guard Trevor Hagan.
Hagan grabbed three steals in the first 2:39 of the contest and scored nine quick points in that stretch, including a pair of 3-pointers from either wing.
The Warriors (0-2) committed four turnovers and got off nary a shot in that same stretch as the Maconaquah lead swelled to 13-0 before NM coach Clay Bolser signaled for a timeout.
“The Hagan kid didn’t take any shots against Logansport [in Maconaquah’s season opener],” Bolser said. He’s in his first year at North Miami after a previous stop at Plainfield, where former Western coach Andy Weaver now coaches. “Unfortunately, being new to the area, I took what I saw in the only game I had to scout. We sagged off of [Hagan] to limit Pier’s touches inside, and [Hagan] knocks down some shots and we’re immediately down 9-0. That’s hard to recover from, and when that happened, I think our kids panicked a little bit against the press. The first five minutes probably sealed the deal for us.”
Maconaquah took a 25-9 lead into the second quarter and stretched the advantage to 42-22 by the half with a scrappy defense that grabbed 12 steals and helped North Miami commit 20 turnovers.
“We want an up-and-down game,” Steele said. “Throughout this week, we were trying to figure out how to get [North Miami] to run with us. We opted to get in our press after our first made basket, and honestly I don’t think we pressed as well as we should’ve. We were in the right place at the right time in a lot of spots with key steals and turnovers. We were able to get the victory Friday night, and [a key to it] was getting that early lead like we wanted.”
The Warriors still had some fight left in them. Trailing 55-37 entering the fourth quarter, NM moved within 12 at 62-50 with 5:50 to play with the help of a pair of quick treys from junior Kyle West.
The Braves responded with an 11-0 run to quash any chances of a comeback. Pier collected a loose ball and scored a post deuce to start the run. Junior K.J. Walton nabbed a steal in the open court and slammed home a breakaway dunk, and 20 seconds later, classmate Adam Harts buried a triple from the wing to stretch the lead back out to 71-50 with 4:30 to play.
“It’s just one of those situations where I’m luck to be in it,” Steele said of leading a veteran squad that didn’t lose its cool. “If I tell one person to slow it down, they’re all going to do it. We’re a very vocal group with each other. We get along great, and it’s a just a great group to be working with.”
Maconaquah put five in double figures. Harts finished with 15 points, while Hagan and Tyler Bradley both added 13. Bradley pulled down a team-high eight rebounds, and junior Kyle Dinn added 10 points off the bench.
Junior Alex Borse led North Miami with 14 points, while senior Austin Barker added 10.