A lethargic start for Twin Lakes couldn’t be fixed by a strong second quarter, and the host Indians made an early exit with a 61-56 loss to Maconaquah in Class 3A, Sectional 20 Tuesday.
In a tight fourth quarter, each team had chances to win, but Twin Lakes coach Kent Adams thought the game was decided well before then.
“It goes back to the start of the game where we were getting outhustled for loose balls, long rebounds, and (our) press, we were letting them throw long passes. We were playing like we were afraid to do anything,” Adams said. “Against their zone, it was so spread out and wide open, there were holes everywhere. We were standing behind people and not stepping through.”
Behind a strong second-half team effort however, the Braves were able to end their recent streak of early exits in postseason play.
“I’m am so sick and tired of being one and done,” Maconaquah coach Andy Steele said. “The last six years I’ve been here, we’ve been one and done, and (the players) said they were going to play all out for me tonight, so I couldn’t be happier for my guys.”
In a sluggish first half, the Braves were dealt their first bout of adversity when 6-foot-10 senior Micah Pier, who finished with a game-high 17 points, was whistled for his second foul in the first quarter. He would sit the rest of the half.
“The second quarter (sitting out) was dreadful,” Pier said. “I was worried our team was going to lose it there. I had to come back in. I needed to play smart. “
After trailing at the end of the first quarter 15-12, the Indians outscored the Braves 22-11 in the second quarter. Zach Diener personally delivered the second wave of adversity by coming off the bench to score 10 points, helping Twin Lakes turn a three-point first quarter deficit into an eight-point halftime lead at 34-26.
Steele’s message at halftime was to deal with the adversity.
“I’ve been preaching adversity all season long,” Steele said, “Basketball is a life lesson. If you’re backing away from a basketball game, you’re going to back away in life.”
Slowly the Braves defense was able to chip away at the Indians’ lead, and by the start of the fourth quarter, they had cut the halftime deficit in half at 43-39.
“We knew defense was going to be key to this game,” senior guard Tyler Bradley said, “Basketball is a game of runs. They made a run in the second quarter and we were able to make one. (Coach Steele) always says when adversity is staring you in the face, you have to punch it in the mouth, which we did tonight.”
After a bucket by Maconaquah junior Kyle Dinn knotted the score at 50, Twin Lakes junior Cameron Bennington, who finished with 13 points, came right back to nail a jumper that appeared to stymie any momentum the Braves may have had.
Bennington’s momentum stoppage was short-lived, however. On the next trip down, Pier tied the game again at 52 with less than three minutes left in the game.
“I didn’t want it to be close there in the fourth quarter,” Adams said. “I knew that they would have the momentum and we would try to hold them off, and we couldn’t do it. We just were not mentally ready tonight.”
A defensive stop and a score by junior KJ Walton allowed the Braves to do something they had not been able to do until early in the second quarter — take the lead. Another score by Pier, who added 10 rebounds, pushed the Maconaquah lead to 56-52. From there, it was a matter of taking care of the ball and making free throws, which the Braves were able to do.
“In my mind that was the first time in a long time that we (Maconaquah) played as a team,” Pier said, ” We’ve had players step up here and there (in other games), but (tonight) as a team I thought we played excellent. We got our shooters to hit some shots, got some inside looks with me and we had great defense.”