Times Sports Editor
TERRE HAUTE -- A lack of quality depth is often a fatal flaw for a team in tournament play and that was never more the case than for the Northview Knights in the Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic this week.
Heavy legs at the end of the final two games of the tournament resulted in heavy hearts for the Knights who dropped their final tourney game to the Marshall Lions, 50-42. The loss comes on the heels of a lost 15-point second half lead against Shakamak on Monday that ended in a loss to the Lakers.
Trent Lancaster, who came in averaging 24.5 ppg. over the first two games of the tourney, got in early foul trouble and never really got going against a solid Marshall club and the Lions were able to limit the Knights' second leading scorer, Jonathan Bradshaw, to just two points. Coach Ernie Maesch commented that he thought both players were a bit gassed late in the loss to the Lakers.
"I think if we're clicking on all cylinders that we can compete with anybody and we had an off night," Maesch said. "I think Trent and JB were tired. Third game they've played and I don't think I took them out except for five seconds at the end of quarters. I think fatigue played a factor when your shooting 3-pointers and having to defend every time down the floor like they are, (fatigue) played a factor."
Lancaster picked up two early fouls in the first half and was limited to just two points, but Caleb Mershon got an early start on a career night with two 3-pointers in the first quarter. The Knights were able to contain the Duncan brothers (Taylor and Jacob) in the first half as Northview held an 11-10 lead after the first period.
In the second period, the Knights struggled to find an offensive rhythm with Lancaster on the bench and hit just one-of-nine from the field while scoring just give points. Meanwhile, Jacob Duncan warmed up to score seven of his 12 points in the quarter as Marshall built a 22-16 lead at the break.
With both of its leading scorers struggling, Maesch was pleased to see his team hang tight with the Lions.
(We) didn't need Trent (Lancaster) in foul trouble. Trent and JB (Jonathan Bradshaw) are our leaders," Maesch said. "Tonight they probably had a little bit of an off night and we were still very competitive and hung in there the whole game. I tell the guys that we're getting better and we're right there in every game and that's the bottom line."
Taylor Duncan opened the second half by hitting a pair of free throws and knocking home a 3-pointer to push the gap to 27-16 before Dillon Reynolds scored a bucket for the Knights. Logan Cannady followed with a fieldgoal to re-set the lead at 29-18 as Northview was perilously close to losing control of the game.
Mershon came to the rescue however, sinking back-to-back 3-pointers, part of a seven-of-11 night from beyond the arc. While the outburst might have surprised some fans, Maesch knew that Mershon could have a night like he did against the Lions.
"He's very capable of that, he had 10 one game this summer, so he's capable of that," Maesch said. "When he's doing that, Dillon (Reynolds) is making good decisions and Trent is doing his thing and JB is scoring, we're still very competitive."
Lancaster followed a score by Cannady with a three-point play and the Knights had crept back within 31-27. However, Jacob Duncan responded with a three-point play of his own. Lancaster kept the Knights close to end the period by scoring to narrow the Lions' lead to 34-29.
Cannady and Mershon traded 3-pointers to open the final stanza, but the Lions' defensive pressure started to take a toll and the Lions made some big shots to string together a 8-2 run that included several second-chance points, which were a fatal blow to the Knights.
"(Marshall) shoots a lot of '3's and give up a lot of long rebounds," Maesch said. "We talked about the long rebounds and the 50/50 balls. I think we had it down maybe to five (points) and the same guy got three attempts, a little guy, No. 30 (Logan Cannady) and that's what we talked about. Even the teams we play in the sectional, there will be a lot of long rebounds and 50/50 balls and we've got to win those."
Trailing 45-35, the Knights got another 3-pointer from Mershon, but sophomore Jordan Grooms sank a 3-pointer for the Lions to push the lead back to double-digits. Northview wasn't able to get any closer than eight points over the final minutes of the game.
Mershon led the Knights with 21 points, but Lancaster was the only other Northview player in double-figures with 11 points.
Despite falling to 1-7 overall, Maesch feels his team is still improving each game.
"Regardless of record we're right there and we've got a lot of games left the second half that we can win and we can get better to try and compete for the sectional," Maesch said.
The Knights have a break until they host Owen Valley on Jan. 8 in a boy/girl doubleheader.
Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic
Talbot 1-2 1-2 3, Reynolds 1-4 3-4 5, Lancaster 4-15 3-5 11, Mershon 7-13 0-0 21, Bradshaw 0-3 2-2 2, Hyatt 0-1 0-0 0, Allen 0-0 0-0 0, Van Horn 0-0 0-0 0, Pestoff 0-0 0-0 0, Rodgers 0-0 0-0 0, King 0-0 0-0 0, Rohr 0-0 0-0 0, Hull 0-0 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 13-38 9-13 42.
J.Duncan 4-14 3-3 12, Tucker 1-4 0-0 2, Cannady 5-6 0-0 12, T.Duncan 3-10 5-6 12, Morey 3-6 0-0 6, Grooms 2-4 0-0 6, Boyll 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 18-44 8-9 50.
3-point fieldgoals -- Nv 7-22 (Mershon 7-11, Lancaster 0-7, Bradshaw 0-1, Reynolds 0-2, Hyatt 0-1), Mar 6-16 (Grooms 2-2, J.Duncan 1-8, T.Duncan 1-4, Cannady 2-2). Total Rebounds -- Nv 24 (Bradshaw 5), Mar 29 (Morey 7, T.Duncan 5). Total Fouls -- Nv 9, Mar 16. Fouled out -- Nv (Lancaster). Turnovers -- Nv 13, Mar 10.