Byler strong, but Thunder muted

BELLEVILLE – Austin Byler scored 13 points and did a little of everything for Belleville Mennonite, but it wasn’t enough as the Thunder fell Monday night to Fannett-Metal, 52-41, in a boys basketball game.

“Austin had a good night,” Belleville Mennonite coach Larry Kauffman said. “I think he fueled it on the defensive end. He’s our lockdown defender. Austin did a great job on both ends of the floor, getting to the basket and forcing his will on both ends.”

Belleville Mennonite led most of the first half, but fell victim to a cold stretch early in the third quarter where it didn’t score for nearly five minutes.

“It seems like every game, we have one quarter where we don’t put the ball in the basket,” Kauffman said. “That 7-0 run was over a three, four, five minute span. It’s not like we didn’t play good defense, but we just didn’t put the ball in the basket. It kind of bit us tonight.”

The Thunder got a team-high 15 points from Sam Morgan.

Belleville Mennonite started off quick with Byler scored with four minutes left in the first quarter to make it 8-2 early on.

A Fannett-Metal 3-point play cut it to 8-7 before Byler’s free throw made it 12-9 after one quarter.

The Thunder took their largest lead of the night when Sammy Kauffman finished off a 3-point play of his own to give his club a 17-9 lead.

Mikell McGee, who seemingly scored every big basket for Fannett-Metal, drained a jumper to end a Belleville Mennonite 6-0 run.

“We game-planned for him quite a bit because he really hurt us out there,” Kauffman said. “He’s deceivingly quick with just that first step. A couple times we stopped the first one and he got the offensive board and put it back up. He’s a tough match-up for us.”

McGee’s basket ignited a 15-5 Fannett-Metal run to end the half and give the Tigers their first lead of the game into the locker room at 24-22.

Byler made 1-of-2 free throws on consecutive possessions to even the game at 24 coming out.

That’s when the critical 7-0 began for Fannett-Metal that put the Tigers in the driver’s seat.

Morgan ended the run with two free throws and Byler’s jumper cut the lead back to 32-30.

The teams exchanged buckets and Byler’s runner made it 34-32 Belleville Mennonite with 7:05 to play.

The Tigers made another 7-0 run, but this one in only 90 seconds, to take a 41-32 lead.

Noah Anders made a 3-pointer to cut it to six points at 45-39 with 2:35 to play, but McGee answered again.

The quick guard made a runner and two free throws to put Fannett-Metal up 49-39 with 1:20 left in the game, essentially ending Belleville Mennonite’s chances.

“The bottom line is, at the end of the day, they made shots from the field, they made foul shots,” Kauffman said. “We shot 20 some percent from the field and we didn’t make foul shots.”

Belleville Mennonite (2-11) will be right back at it tonight at 7:30 whe the Thunder travel to Carson Long.