Striking a balance
Shenango (49) Vs. Laurel (91)
By Andrew Koob
New Castle News

The Laurel High boys basketball team can rely on a number of scoring options.

Each stepped up last night and put his stamp on a 91-49 victory over visiting Section 1-AA opponent Shenango.

Four Spartans eclipsed the double-digit point mark, with Noah Wertz leading the way with 25. The lone Laurel senior connected on seven 3-pointers, a single-game record for the program, according to the Spartans coaching staff.

Mason Mraz followed with 22 points, Scott Siddall had 20 and Jacob Wilson tallied 13.

Laurel connected on 10 3-pointers and 33 field goals overall.

“I think it’s what we’re capable of doing,” coach Ken Locke said. “We have a lot of guys that can shoot and tonight we shot the ball really well. You have to be pleased. Noah shot the lights out, he can get hot and that’s the nice thing about us. Any five of our guys can get hot, so it’s certainly a big positive.”

Ryan Smith posted a team-high 20 points and Brenton booher added 11 for the Wildcats (0-3 section, 3-3 overall).

Laurel (3-0, 4-2) set the tone from the opening tip, scoring in the opening four seconds on a Siddall layup. The Spartans went on a 16-2 run in the first quarter, with Mraz scoring seven points during the span, to take a 27-13 advantage in the first eight minutes.

“We talk about bounces, you have to create your own bounces,” Shenango coach Bob McQuiston said. “You create your own opportunities and I don’t think we did that tonight. I think, right from the start, we didn’t come out intense and ready to go and Laurel did.

“When you give up 27 points in the first quarter, you could be in for a long night and, obviously, they got after it. They played well, my hats off to them. There aren’t any excuses, they took it to us tonight.”

The Spartans came out of halftime with a 17-point lead, but really broke the scoring open behind Wertz’s three 3-pointers in the third quarter. Laurel went on to outscore the Wildcats 26-9 in the third quarter and double its score, 68-34, heading into the fourth.

“Not quite like that,” Wertz said of whether the shooting performance was expected. “I just got lucky after awhile and started to knock them down with confidence. It was all on good shots, but my team helped me big time.

“It’s a family, my family is my basketball team.”

Laurel was able to push the ball in transition and get easy looks at the basket. Good court vision from the guards, intense defense leading to steals and a few highlight-reel assists stunned the Wildcats again and again.

“You can’t practice that too often,” Wertz said. “That’s backyard stuff, playing with friends. We’ve all been playing together since my freshman year. The score tonight showed what we have going on here.”

Locke added, “We like to get out in transition. I don’t think we’re trying in particular to speed the game up. We just shot the ball well and it added up. We definitely have the guys that can do that and we like to get it up there and get as many easy looks as possible. We were able to get a few of those tonight.”

Wertz’s record-breaking performance certainly was at the forefront of a night capped by Spartan sdominance. It’s a decent start for Laurel, but it won’t be enough moving forward.

“It’s a good feat for him and a good feat for our team,” Locke said. “But we set some goals at the beginning of the season and it was a good win, but we’re going to get back to work tomorrow. They’re all big in section play, so we’re not satisfied with where we’re at. I think our section is very balanced and, on any given night, I think anybody can beat anybody. But we have to keep working here and keep going in the right direction.”

McQuiston, whose Wildcats started the season 3-0 but have dropped the last three games against Neshannock, Lincoln Park and the Spartans, replaced his entire starting lineup with the junior varsity squad after an intentional foul with 2:43 left in the third quarter. The starters returned for the final quarter.

“It starts at practice, it starts with the coaches,” McQuiston said of regaining their early-season success. “We have to get plugging away and find out why we’re making mistakes and find you what we need to do to correct them. We have to have good practices, I think we need to turn up the intensity at practice.”

(Email: A_Koob@ncnewsonline.com)
Game Scoreboard
Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 OT SCORE
Shenango 13 12 9 15 0 49
Laurel 27 15 26 23 0 91
Box Scores
SHENANGO (49)
Brenton Booher 3 4-4 11
Ryan Smith 8 2-2 20
Christian O’Hara 3 2-2 9
Matt Benson 1 1-2 3
Hunter Miller 0 2-2 2
Paul Turco 0 0-0 0
Brandon Ryder 1 0-0 2
Jared Jamison 0 0-0 0
Vinny Turco 0 0-0 0
Ryan Conner 1 0-0 2
Louis Domenick 0 0-0 0
Alex Young 0 0-0 0
Totals: 17 11-12 49

LAUREL (91)
Jordan Dantico 0 0-0 0
Noah Wertz 9 0-0 25
Tucker Skerbetz 1 0-0 3
Scott Siddall 9 1-2 20
Jacob Wilson 3 7-8 13
Mason Mraz 7 7-10 22
Adam Enscoe 1 0-0 2
Isici Layne 1 0-0 2
Zachary Sickafuse 2 0-0 4
Colton Brown 0 0-0 0
Coltin Esposito 0 0-0 0
Totals: 33 15-20 91

SHENANGO 13 12 9 15 — 49
LAUREL 27 15 26 23 — 91

3-point goals — Shenango 4 (Booher 1, Smith 2, O’Hara 1), Laurel 10 (Wertz 7, Skerbetz 1, Siddall 1, Mraz 1).
JV score: Shenango 51, Laurel 38. High scorer: S — Brandon Ryder 12, Jared Jamison 11, Ryan Conner 10. L — Coltin Esposito 9.
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