Smith delivers in Wildcats’ victory
Shenango (60) Vs. Mercyhurst Prep (57)
Dec 05, 2014
By Andrew Koob
New Castle News

The Shenango boys basketball team needed a spark.

Ryan Smith was more than happy to oblige.

Smith scored 35 points, 15 off 3-pointers, as the Wildcats overcame an 11-point first quarter deficit to top Mercyhurst Prep 60-57 last night in the opening round of the Neshannock Tipoff Tournament.

“He shot the ball really well,” Shenango coach Bob McQuiston said. “We ran a couple of sets for him, we set some good screens for him and he was able to get some open looks. And when he gets open, he’s going to make his shots. Ryan’s probably one of the best shooters in the league, he can flat-out stroke it.

“He was on tonight and when he’s on, we’re going to give him the ball. I’m proud of him, coming down the stretch and making four big foul shots,” he added. “That was our Achilles’ heel last year, we missed a lot of foul shots down the stretch. To his credit, he’s worked hard on them and he’s the guy I want at the line at the end of the game.”

The senior guard exploded in the second quarter for 15 of the Wildcats’ 17 points to bring Shenango back within striking distance heading into the break. But Smith will be the first to give the credit to the rest of his teammates.

“It was my teammates just setting screens so I could get open,” Smith said. “Rebounding and just setting solid picks to find a spot. I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Smith’s performance was much needed after the Lakers pounced on Shenango, opening the game on an 11-3 run. An Andrews Williams 3-pointer pushed Mercyhurst Prep’s lead to 13 for its largest lead of the game.

“You’re always going to have some pre-game jitters, I thought we just came out flat, a little flat-footed and that’s why they were scoring,” McQuiston said. “I think they hit three 3s in the first quarter. We didn’t come out ready to play, but I thought, in the second quarter, we buckled down on defense a little bit. Our rebounding was better and we started making some shots in the second quarter. When you’re making shots, that makes a big difference.”

The Laker frontcourt duo of Justin Baker and Chris Vallimont gave an undersized Shenango team fits. The forwards combined for 29 points and were a force on the glass.

“They had a little bit of a size advantage on us, those kids are both big, strong kids,” McQuiston said. “We wanted to play behind them, but we weren’t doing a good job doubling down on their guards. I thought we were late getting there, they recognized it and made a quick move before we could come. We don’t usually play behind the bigs and double down but, with the size disadvantage, I thought we could make them square up to the basket and play facing the basket. They’re two good players, but we need to do a better job of that. Our guards have to put a little more pressure up front so those entry passes don’t look as inviting.

“They definitely did us on the boards tonight and they had that size advantage but, when you box out, that doesn’t matter,” he added. “There were a couple times that we stood around and watched and we have to make it the priority, rebounding has to be a priority. Most shots are missed and we have to come up with those. Offensively, we want second and third shots and, defensively, we want to limit the opponent to one.”

Shenango relied heavily on the 3-point shot, knocking down eight total. Smith’s night ended with four clutch free throws to put the Wildcats at a three-point advantage. A Mercyhurst 3-point attempt fell wide-left of the rim.

The victory marks the first against Mercyhurst Prep for Shenango in four years. The Lakers topped the Wildcats 66-58 last year in the Neshannock Tipoff Tournament.

“They’re a well-coached team obviously but, after awhile, it gets to be a little bit old,” McQuiston said. “Our seniors have been with us for all three years, a lot of them played as sophomores. “It’s the first game of the season, but it’s a team that’s beaten us three times so we definitely wanted to get that win tonight.”

Nightly Roundup
Game Scoreboard
Shenango 11 17 16 16 0 60
Mercyhurst Prep 22 11 11 13 0 57
Box Scores
Brenton Booher 5 1-2 13
Ryan Smith 12 6-7 35
Christian O’Hara 1 4-5 6
Matt Benson 1 2-4 5
Hunter Miller 0 0-0 0
Paul Turco 0 1-4 1
Brandon Ryder 0 0-0 0
Totals: 19 14-22 63

Justin Baker 5 1-2 13
Chris Vallimont 6 6-9 16
Nick Evanoff 1 0-1 2
Tyler Jones 1 0-1 2
Fred Gillespie 2 3-6 7
Andrew Williams 4 0-0 9
Mike Lewis 2 0-0 6
Totals: 21 10-19 57

SHENANGO 11 17 16 16 — 60
MERCYHURST PREP 22 11 11 13 — 57

3-point goals — Shenango 8 (Smith 5, Booher 2, Benson 1), Mercyhurst Prep 5 (Baker 2, Lewis 2, Williams 1).
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