LINDEN - Defense was the name of the game as North Montgomery’s boys basketball team opened their season with a 52-24 loss to Speedway.
The Chargers held the Sparkplugs in check for much of the game, but the visitors defense never let up, as they denied access to the rim, access to shots and owned a solid margin on the glass.
“I’m really proud of how hard we competed from start to finish,” North coach Chad Arnold said. “Speedway played hard, and so did we. We just never got any shots to fall.”
Some of that no-fall can be credited to Speedway’s defense, as they denied passing lanes and any open looks.
“Our motto is ‘Defense Wins Championships,’” Sparkplugs coach Charles Bennett said. “Defense travels and we had a great effort tonight. We communicated well, we had good chemistry and everybody did their job.”
Five lead changes in the first quarter had Speedway ahead by one, but the ‘Plugs plugged up North’s offense in the second quarter, limiting the Chargers to two field goals, and they led 20-12 at halftime.
The visitors got loose offensively a few times in the third, and three three-pointers pushed the margin into double-digits. The fourth quarter saw North hit only one field goal, and Speedway picked up the win on their opening night.
“We’re a really young team, and we have lots of learning to do,” Arnold said. “We’ve only had like 13 practices, but if we play this hard every night, we will be fine. We lost them in transition a couple times and things snowballed a bit in the third quarter, but we held our own. We held them to 52 points, and that is a good number. Obviously we have to get some more offense.”
The Chargers were led in scoring by Jakob Kirsch with seven points, and the senior’s minutes were limited by foul trouble. He eventually fouled out in the fourth.
Little brother Jarrod Kirsch had five points and freshman Kelby Harwood added four. North was 9-of-37 from the floor, 3-of-14 from long range and 3-of-6 from the line. They pulled down 19 rebounds, led by Treyce Pittman’s four, and turned the ball over 13 times.
The Sparkplugs, however, made those turnovers hurt, as they scored 16 points off those miscues.
Overall, Speedway was 19-of-35 from the field, 5-of-10 from deep and 9-of-12 from the line. They had 31 boards and a dozen turnovers.
They were led in scoring by Landon Short and Eli Owens with 11 each. Short was making his first varsity start and Owens , coming off the bench, posted his points in the second half, courtesy of three three-pointers.
Their leading rebounder was Reis Walker with seven, and the senior, one of the leading returning scorers, had eight points, one off his average from last season.
“We were so unselfish,” Bennett said of his squad. “These guys are all long-time friends who cheer each other on in practices and games. I was concerned about our conditioning, because we have 11 guys from both the jv and varsity coming off football, but we told the guys to come in and give us four hard minutes at a time. There is a role for everybody on this team, and they showed that tonight. We tell the guys to do the simple savagely, and they played defense like that tonight.”
The Sparkplugs were also without the services of last year’s leading scorer, as Nate Matelic (10.9 ppg) is still three weeks out due to a soccer injury.
Both coaches were pleased with opening-night efforts.
“We had guys playing their first varsity minutes, but we worked really hard,” Bennett said.
“Ross Dyson drew a tough defensive assignment and did a great job,” Arnold said of his sophomore guard, “and Harwood was really good for a first game. We took care of the ball for the most part, and like I said, we played really hard.”
The Sparkplugs will entertain Crawfordsville on Dec. 21.
The Chargers next action is Dec 3 against Southmont.
Speedway won the jv game 44-30.
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