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Laurel boys hold on to top Union
Laurel (54) Vs. Union (48)
By JOE SAGER
ncsports@ncnewsonline.com

It may not be highlight-reel material, but the Laurel High boys basketball team will take it.

The Spartans saw their 14-point lead nearly evaporate late in the fourth quarter last night, but they held on for a 54-48 win over Union at the Union Booster Tournament.

“We did enough to win,” Laurel coach Mike Tinstman said. “Sometimes, you play well and don’t win. So, we’ll take it.”

Both teams battled to a 14-all tie after the first quarter.

In the second, the Scotties (0-7) gained some momentum and took a 26-21 lead with 3:40 left in the quarter. However, Laurel (3-4) stormed back to close the half with a 12-3 run to post a 33-29 halftime advantage.

“We’re young and we get in that one little period where we have that lull, where we get ourselves in a little hole and it’s just something we have to grow out of,” Union coach Dave Smialowski said. “I am proud of their effort. They worked hard and made it a game. We just can’t get ourselves in that little hole because we do struggle a little offensively.”

Union’s offensive struggles continued into the third quarter. The Scotties did not register a field goal in the frame and were limited to just four free throws.

“They switched up and went in a little zone. We struggled with it. We were throwing it around the perimeter a little too much and keeping it on one side of the floor,” Smialowski said. “Against a zone, you want to move the basketball and get it on opposite ends of the floor. That’s something we weren’t doing. We just got ourselves in a little rut there.”

While Union struggled to find the basket, the Spartans pushed their lead to 12 points, 45-33, on Chad Long’s coast-to-coast layup. Laurel increased the buffer to 14 points, 49-35, on a Ryan Hites basket with 5:16 remaining in the contest.

Playing without starter Todd Fennick, who injured his knee in the second quarter, the Spartans struggled against the Scotties’ defensive pressure. The hosts whittled the deficit to five points, 50-45, with 1:21 to go.

“We have to learn from that. We were forced to make some adjustments because Todd Fennick was out and he has been playing very well and scoring a lot for us,” Tinstman said. “He takes the ball to the basket and it opens up things for us. With him not there, it took one of our scorers away and they were able to put pressure on us and then we played hesitant; we weren’t playing confident. Our defense kept us in the game. We have to do a better job rebounding, too.”

Laurel struggled to seal the victory at the foul line. The Spartans converted just 4 of 9 chances from the charity stripe in the final 1:07.

“We played hard, but we made a lot of mistakes out there,” Tinstman said. “We didn’t shoot foul shots very well, but we played hard and got a win. That’s what we needed. We have a lot of young kids out there and we have a lot to learn. We hope to keep gaining some experience.”

Union’s defense remained strong despite the team’s offensive struggles.

“I think, defensively, we’re doing a decent job. We have breakdowns, but who doesn’t? You just want to try and limit those. It did keep us in the game,” Smialowski said. “We’re improving. We’re young. We’re starting three sophomores and also a junior who doesn’t have much experience. We’re learning on the fly. It’s coming together. I told the kids they have to keep their chins up and be patient with it because it’s coming.”

Long led all scorers with 22 points for Laurel, which meets Shenango at 7:30 p.m. in today’s championship. Hites had 10 points.

Tre Major tallied 17 points for the Scotties, who meet Wilmington at 4:30 p.m. in the consolation game.
Game Scoreboard
Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 OT SCORE
Laurel 14 19 12 9 0 54
Union 14 15 4 15 0 48
Box Scores
LAUREL (54)
Ryan Hites 3 4-10 10
Ricky Jones 4 1-2 9
Todd Fennick 3 0-0 6
Chad Long 8 4-9 22
Josh Finley 1 1-3 3
Conor Melichar 1 1-2 3
Ryan Melichar 0 0-0 0
Josh Dando 0 1-2 1.
Totals: 20 12-28 54.

UNION (48)
Andre Jones 0 4-6 4
Markel Peace 3 3-3 9
Tre Major 6 4-10 17
John Riggans 0 0-0 0
Toryan Respress 3 2-2 8
Drew Robinson 0 0-0 0
Benjamin Young 1 0-0 2
Joe Salmen 0 0-0 0
John DeCesare 2 0-0 4
Jordan Callahan 2 0-0 4.
Totals: 17 13-21 48.

LAUREL 14 19 12 9 — 54
UNION 14 15 4 15 — 48
3-point goals — Laurel 2 (Long 2), Union 1 (Major 1).
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