BELLEVILLE - Second-year coach Larry Kauffman admitted before Friday's game that he was a bit nervous leading into Belleville Mennonite's season opener against Juniata Mennonite.
As it turned out, his team gave him every reason to relax early on in the contest as the Trojans cruised past the Lions 47-16 in the opening round of the Belleville Mennonite Tip-Off Tournament.
"Yeah, it was a good start," Kauffman said. "It was nice to get some game activity to get rid of the jitters. It seemed like there was a lid on the basket there in the first couple of minutes. We had some real good looks and just didn't finish. But I'm real pleased with the way the guys played defense tonight. We came out wanting to pressure the ball and got a lot of steals early and a lot of easy baskets."
For Juniata Mennonite, it was another learning curve for a group that hasn't played together very long.
"(Belleville Mennonite) is fundamentally sound," Lions coach Dennis Zimmerman said. "These guys know what they're doing and have a little bit bigger of a pool to draw from, but a game is a game and that's why you play them. The inside game killed us again tonight. We have to learn to defend the paint - we struggle with that."
The Trojans used their size and strength to open the game on a big run that lasted the duration of the first eight minutes. J.D. Spicher opened the scoring with five points in the frame - including a three-pointer - to give the home team a 13-2 advantage after one.
It was an even better second quarter for Kauffman's squad, as junior Nate Metzler was drawing all sorts of attention in the low block. The forward record seven points in the quarter by himself and the rest of his teammates added 12 more in an eight-minute span that put 19 points on home side of the scoreboard.
A Joe Barner 3-pointer and a Dustin Stauffer jumper was all Juniata Mennonite could muster in the frame and the Trojans held a commanding 32-7 lead at the break.
Belleville Mennonite's hot shooting continued into the third quarter, as Spicher added seven more onto his total and Metzler tacked on four more. Meanwhile, the Lions' offense was stagnant for the third quarter in a row. Tyler Howard's basket midway through the quarter was the one and only field goal in the third.
Matt Book gave the Juniata Mennonite faithful reason to cheer in the final quarter though, as his hustle and determination resulted in multiple offensive rebounds and two stick backs to lead the Lions to their only quarter victory on the evening.
The Lions (0-3) fall into the consolation bracket where they will face off with Great Commission at 2:30 p.m. today.
Belleville Mennonite will now prepare to host Northumberland Christian in the championship game at 5:30.
"My biggest question going into the year was who is going to put the ball in the basket?" Kauffman said. "We lost a lot of our scoring, but we're looking for J.D. to take the ball to the basket, which he did a little better tonight. He's used to being a perimeter three-point shooter. (Metzler) is the same way - he's got to get to the basket and get his shots up."
Metzler led all scored with 15 points while Spicher added 12 in victory for the Trojans. Barner led Juniata Mennonite with five points while Book chipped in with four.