COCOLAMUS - It wasn't pretty, but it sure must have felt nice for the Midd-West boys basketball team when it defeated Juniata, 54-39 in the first round of the Juniata County Christmas Tournament.
In the game, which seemed to consist more of turnovers and fouls on both ends of the floor than scoring plays, it was evident early on that it wasn't going to be a game for the eventual winner to brag about. But the Mustangs, for which this win is only the second in as many years, weren't about to give up the victory.
"Our shooting has been awful so far this season," Midd-West coach Brent Bobb said, but he acknowledged that Thursday it was a little bit better, with Kahil Brooker and Andrew Karchner leading the team with 11 points each.
Sentinel photo by MATT?STRICKER
Midd-West’s Kahill Brooker, center, attempts a shot between Juniata defenders Brandon Danner (23) and Logan Knepp (51) Thursday at East Juniata. See more photos online at cu.lewistownsentinel.com
This slight improvement in scoring was essential for the Mustangs during the first half of the game, as that's when they really took the lead against Juniata.
In the first quarter, neither team had much success finding the bucket - Juniata only had 4 points the entire first quarter - but toward the end of the quarter Midd-West started hitting its shots, resulting in a 14-4 lead going into the second.
From there, Midd-West again outscored Juniata - with one 3-pointer a piece from Brooker and Noah Stroup coming in as the half neared its end - and the Mustangs had a nice 31-14 point lead going in to the third quarter.
"Today we were a little better," Bobb said of his team's offense. "We're still not where we should be for winning games, but we're getting there."
But if the Mustangs are still working on getting there with their offense, one area in which they've had some success, and which was also very important in Thursday's win, is their full court press.
Midd-West put its press on early in the game, resulting in many Juniata turnovers throughout the entire game.
"A lot of it depends on the guys," Bobb said of the press. "If they're in the right mental outlook with the press, it's almost unbeatable."
Thursday, the Mustangs had the right mental outlook.
Juniata had trouble holding onto the ball and setting up its offense because of Midd-West's traps, and this made it impossible for the Indians to work back from the first half deficit.
"It's just simple mistakes - stuff that we can fix. We're not going to the ball, we're giving up turnovers," Juniata coach Nate Geibel said.
Geibel gave an accurate assessment of his team's performance.
Although Juniata had some nice individual plays, on the whole the team had trouble getting all five guys on the court to work efficiently against Midd-West's press. On the individual end, Logan Knepp played strong in the paint to get a game-high 14 points, and Justin Mingle also came up big scoring all eight of his points in the fourth quarter, but none of it was enough to get the team out of the hole.
In the third and fourth quarters Juniata outscored Midd-West 25-23, but it was too little, too late for the Indians.
Juniata (0-6) faces Belleville Mennonite in the consolation round of the tournament at 2:30 p.m today. Midd-West (2-3) takes on East Juniata in today's championship round at 5:30 p.m.