Defense, defense and more defense.
Visiting Union County put the clamps on host Randolph Southern to post a 52-38 boys basketball win Friday on the Rebels’ Senior Night.
In both the half court, and with an occasional full-court press, the Patriots led throughout in moving to 14-6 on the season, while Southern fell to 4-14.
The final score doesn’t even indicate the full effect of the UC pressure, as the visitors led 41-20 after three periods. The Rebels could manage just seven field goals in the first three quarters combined, and only two buckets in each of the first two quarters.
So while Union County didn’t sparkle offensively, the team did nail three treys in a second quarter that stretched the lead to 26-12 by intermission.
A Kory Finch 3-pointer at the buzzer gave UC momentum ending the half. And when the teams took the court again, the Pats scored the first seven points of the second half, led 33-12 and never looked back.
Defense was the focus of Union County’s game preparation.
“Defense, oh was that the focus coming into this game,” exclaimed Union County coach Mark Detweiler. “Our effort against East Central (Senior Night home loss) was not where we need to be at this time of the year. We need to not only deflect passes, but discourage passes, and our guys did that (Friday).”
As for the UC offense, Brandon Himes had six points in the second quarter alone, and nine on the night, but a bigger contribution may well have been double-figure rebounds as a 5-10 perimeter player. Unofficially, Himes had a dozen boards and the Pats dominated on the glass all night.
“Coach tells us to focus on rebounding, and he said I could be a good rebounder if I box out well, so I try to do that,” Himes said.
As for Southern, a loss in the finale on the home hardwood did not discourage first-year boss J.C. Price.
“Union County is a very disciplined team, just as our Southern teams were when coach Detweiler coached here,” said Price, who played for Detweiler for the Rebels.
“We had a hard time getting into our offense, and we weren’t cutting with a purpose. They (UC) have a good program, and are a good team. This was a measuring stick to let us know what we have to work on and improve for the future,”
Price added that senior Alex Welch was severely limited in court time because of foul trouble. He had a team-high 11 points, anyway, including six in the fourth quarter before fouling out.
Braden Norris led UC with 17 points, highlighted by an 11-point burst in the third quarter. Finch added 11, and senior Trey Hannebaum contributed seven for the Pats.
Both teams are scheduled to complete regular-season play next Friday with road games. UC goes to Milan, while Southern meets county and Mid-Eastern Conference rival Union.
“This year, our seniors have done a good job in trying to turn the program around, and now we need to go to Union and do a better job than when we played them the first time,” Price said.
Union topped the Rebels 62-37 at Union in the semifinals of the Randolph County Tournament. Union beat Winchester the next night to take the title.
Also, on Sunday night, the Indiana High School Athletic Association will announce pairings for the state tournament, which begins with sectional games Feb. 26, and continues with Friday and Saturday sectional play March 1-2.