HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL

BOYS BASkETBALL: Defense, timely scoring leads Mustangs past Stars

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VEEDERSBURG — When Andrew Shabi gets going, he’s tough to stop. 

And that’s what the Fountain Central senior did during crunch time on Saturday night in a 48-46 win over Western Boone.

Trailing 38-37 with seven minutes to play, Shabi knocked down three-straight 3-pointers to put the Mustangs (3-1) up 46-40 with 3:27 left. Shabi led Fountain Central with 16 points, including 11 in the second half.

The Stars (0-4) fought back with a pair of triples from Jonathan McAtee and Seth McClaskey to tie it at 46, but Shabi found a slashing Imanol Barradas for the game-winning basket with 1:33 to play. Western Boone had a number of opportunities to tie or take a late lead, but came up short each time.

“Before the game my group was challenged to rise to the occasion and to be aggressive and play with the physicality and to really try and be the team defensively that we don’t want to play against and I thought our guys really rose to the occasion,” third-year Fountain Central coach Phil Shabi said. “Defensively that was our finest effort with this group in the last three years I’ve been here.”

Western Boone jumped out to a quick 9-0 lead, but Fountain Central clawed back in it by getting to the free throw line 15 times in the first half, connecting on 13 of them to take a 30-25 lead into halftime. The early foul trouble forced a shorthanded Western Boone team to adjust defensively.

“It was a weird game and the officiating was hard to adjust to,” Western Boone coach Josh Burkett said. “and I think it was hard for both teams. Our guys were getting frustrated and if you are going to call fouls the way they did it’s going to be tough, but I thought they battled through it and in the second half stay mentally tough and the mentally tough team will win, and I thought we played better in the second half.”

After being held scoreless in the first half, Western Boone leading scorer Jonathan McAtee scored seven second half points, but throughout the Stars turned to Seth McClaskey to pick up the slack offensively and the junior answered the bell with 18 points to lead all scorers on six made 3-pointers.

“We got the ball out of Jonathan’s hands and asked Seth to step up and I thought he did a really nice job,” Burkett said. “They didn’t trap him as much because he was handling it so well. I thought we handled the pressure very well, we just didn’t finish as many as we would have liked, and we missed some shots that we normally make.”

Western Boone connected on 17-of-38 shots for the game and had just 12 turnovers, but had a pair of miscues and missed shots on its last four possessions of the game.

While Western Boone’s lack of depth was a point of concern for the Stars, Fountain Central played 10 guys — all of which found the scoring column. 

“We played 10 guys and obviously the main guys get a little bit more minutes,” Shabi said. “So what we preach to the guys that whether you play 28 minutes or three minutes, give us something. And tonight there wasn’t a man that didn’t come in and do positive things for us.”

Barradas added eight for the Mustangs, while Mason Larkin and Carter Merryman each chipped in five. Connor Garrity and Garrett Morton had seven apiece for the Stars.

At 3-1 Fountain Central is starting to build the most confidence they’ve had during Shabi’s tenure.

“Throw WeBo’s record out the window, they usually expect to come over here and get a win,” he said. “Not to say they overlook anybody, but they come over here confident and we talked to the guys last night and said this could be our best win in my time here and we wanted to get one like this where it was a tough game.”

Western Boone is at Covington on Tuesday, while Fountain Central entertains Clinton Central.

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