MARSHALL – For Parke Heritage, defense was the name of the game. For Fountain Central, there was no getting around that defense as the Wolves, ranked No. 6 in the state 2A poll, defeated the Mustangs 74-36.
The win moves PH to 18-3 on the season and secures at least a share of the WRC championship at 6-0, while FC falls to 8-9 overall and 2-4 in the league.
For the Mustangs, there was no way around the Wolves defense, and coupled with a very good shooting night for PH, the visitors found the going very rugged at the old Turkey Run basketball palace.
“We can defend,” Parke Heritage coach Rich Shelsky “Our M-O last year was our defense and with no offseason, we wondered if we could replicate it since we have more scorers, but the guys have bought into our defensive intensity. We want to hold teams under 50, and to keep it under 40 tonight is just a credit to the guys and how hard they work. Our defense starts with the seniors and starts in practice. Our practices get pretty competitive.”
The tone of the game was set from the first minute.
Both teams made their first shot, a 3-pointer.
The next Fountain Central bucket came in the second quarter.
The Wolves made nine more in that same time span, including five from behind the arc, as they made it look like they practiced every day on the old floor, and not just every so often.
“We had really good ball movement,” Schelsky said. “We have good offensive players and we had good execution tonight. We got the ball where it needed to go, and to the guy it needed to go to, and then we got the shot we wanted.”
Shooting 60 percent for the night, including a 9-of-18 effort from long range, the Wolves put three in double-figures.
Leading the way was Conner Davis, as the big man down low missed his first and last shot but made the nine in between to finish with 21 points.
“Conner has had an exceptional career,” Schelsky said of the senior. “I'm just a little biased, but I think he is the best post player we've had in a long time in this area.”
Riley Ferguson and Christian Johnson each had 15, while Johnson and his brother Noble each had six rebounds to lead their team.
“They were too big, too fast and too strong,” Mustangs coach Phil Shabi said. “They were able to push us off our spots, and took away all our offensive threats.”
FC was led in scoring by Mason Larkin's 14 points, followed by Will Harmon with 11.
The Mustangs were simply denied the painted area, and had to work the offense from long away.
They finished 13-of-40 from the floor, but exactly half of their shots were from three-point range, and they were only able to hit six of those, as much due to PH pressure as any other factor.
The Wolves defense, while denying shots, also took the ball away with regularity. They finished with 21 takeaways, and those turnovers led to 23 points.
“We wanted to put pressure on them (FC) off the ball,” Schelsky noted. “We got in the gaps and that led to a lot of steals. We like to call it a pack-line defense.”
Both teams are back in action tonight.
The Wolves will celebrate winter Homecoming with a game against Central Catholic.
The Mustangs regroup and will play host to Southmont.
“We just have to stay together and stay positive,” Shabi said. “I told the guys to just stay with us. We , aren't going to dwell on this at all. We just have to bounce back.”
Fountain Central jumped out to a double-digit lead early in the game, but had to make some big free throws in the last two minutes to take a 53-45 win.
The Mustangs had four in double-figures, starting with Carter Merryman's 12, then Koby Wolf's 11, and 10 each for Ely Thompson and Owen Acton.
The Wolves were led by a season-high 17 from Joel Gooch, followed by 13 from Adam Carrington.