Everything we thought it would be By Shayne Combs, email@example.com
Great atmosphere, emotions running high, slow tempo with a physical slugfest feel â€“ all of this and more were expected entering this game, and all of this is what we got Tuesday night at Huntington. I enjoyed doing this weekâ€™s Cardoâ€™s Family Fun Center SVC Sports Talk Podcast Show (click to listen) as Eric Snyder and I talked a lot about this match-up. We both felt this game was going to be close, and we both had some thoughts that definitely played out in this SVC Showdown.
I was really confident that this game would remain slow and in the half court for the most part. This Huntington group always seems to play with great efficiency, and they always do a good job of keeping Dylan Gragg involved in the offense. They didnâ€™t always play pretty basketball Tuesday night, but they never really allowed Unioto to live in transition.
I thought Eric made a good call in terms of rebounding giving Unioto some chances to push the tempo and get second-chance points. I thought this was a huge factor in the first half. Unioto point guard Cole Murray was getting into the middle of the Huntington defense and Chase Detillion and Adam Woods were really active on the glass. The Shermans led 23-15 at halftime, and to be honest, it almost felt like Huntington was fortunate to only be down eight.
A big reason for Huntington staying in the game was the play of Blake Campbell. Through the first 16 minutes, Gragg had only four points and Brice Vickers was held scoreless as Campbell provided the Huntsmen some much needed scoring.
In the third quarter, Huntington got within four at 30-26, but Uniotoâ€™s Murray hit a triple and then a deep two to give Unioto a 35-26 lead with about two minutes to play in the quarter. With Unioto on the verge of breaking the game open, Brendon Campbell led a shutdown Huntington defense and Gragg and Vickers came alive on the offensive end. Huntington scored the final nine points of the third quarter to tie the game at 35-35 after three quarters of play.
The fourth quarter was more of the same. Unioto was having trouble scoring in the half court, and Vickers continued to take the game over on the offensive end. Down 37-35, Vickers hit a three-pointer to give Huntington the one-point lead. A few minutes later â€“ with Huntington now leading 40-37 â€“ Vickers provided perhaps the play of the night when he took the ball coast to coast off a nice hesitation dribble and finished at the rim to give Huntington the 42-37 lead with 2:11 remaining in the game.
The Huntsmen would eventually put the game away at the free throw line as Huntington earned the 49-42 win. Besides the emergence of Gragg and Vickers in the second half (they both ended with 15 points), the story in this one was Huntingtonâ€™s defense. Unioto did add a late three and a late lay-up that were both fairly irrelevant meaning Unioto scored only two points in a nine minute stretch after enjoying the before mentioned nine-point lead.
Another factor in this change of momentum was the free throw line. Unioto was 6-of-16 from the charity stripe (including 0-5 in the fourth quarter) while Huntington was 11-of-16 from the free throw line.
Looking back on this game, I give Huntington credit for changing things up on defense and finding a way to stay close until their scorers got things going. I thought Unioto played well over the first three quarters, but their tendency to get stagnant in the offensive scrimmage area really showed in the fourth quarter.
I feel this is a huge win for Huntington. It protects their home court, and it gives them a chance to take over outright first place. For Unioto, it probably is disappointing because you had control of the game late in the third quarter, but there is a long way to go in the league race. The two teams are set for the rematch on February 3rd when Huntington travels to Unioto.
NOTE: You can hear some post game comments from Dylan Gragg and Brice Vickers on next weekâ€™s Cardoâ€™s Family Fun Center SVC Sports Talk Podcast Show. The episode will also have audio from head coach Travis Rinehart as he talks about the great leadership of the Campbell twins as well as the big second half performances from Gragg and Vickers.