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Mustangs use hot start, top the Lions

MIDDLEBURG–The Midd-West Mustangs picked up their first win of the season on Monday night as they routed Meadowbrook Christian by a final score of 71-49. The offense was relentless, and the defense was bothersome, both of which overwhelmed the relatively young Lions’ roster from the start.

“We talk about the (importance of the) first couple of minutes in the first quarter and the first couple of minutes in the third quarter,” coach Lance Adams explained. “They did a great job… and we want to win those first couple of minutes while we’re fresh and force other teams to go deep into the bench.”

At the forefront of the Mustangs’ attack was guard Braedon Reid, who was automatic from the floor and scored a game-high 22 points. Reid helped spread the defense and made his home behind the three-point line, burying four threes in the contest.

Reid played a more reserved role on offense, letting the ball come to him and allowing his teammates to make plays–something coach Adams says he’s been working on.

“You don’t think he has that many (points) then you look and see that he’s in the 20s again,” Adams said. “We try to get him to not do too much. When he doesn’t do too much, the game comes to him and we’ll get him the looks he needs. He did a better job of that tonight.”

Not to be outdone by his teammate, Stefan Leitzel, the Mustangs’ big man, finished just an assist and a steal shy of a triple-double. On top of his nine assists and nine steals, Leitzel added 13 points.

Despite being the tallest player on the court, Leitzel was able to show his shifty side by intercepting multiple Lions’ passes and pickpocketing unsuspecting ball-handlers. His tenacity on both sides on the ball is something that comes naturally to him.

“He’s an athlete… as far as our (full-court) press, he’s the guy that makes it go,” Adams said. “If he gets steals, he pushes it out ahead in transition. When he’s not on the floor, we’re missing some of that.”

Despite being just three games into the season, Leitzel has faced foul trouble every time he’s taken the floor. On Monday, the senior fouled out with two minutes left in the game, ending his bid for the rare triple-double.

When Leitzel is out on the floor, the Mustangs are a better team. In their first two games, both of which were losses, Leitzel spent too much time on the bench, in an attempt to prevent him fouling out.

“In the first two games, he lost a lot of minutes with foul trouble and that was something we focused on coming into tonight,” Adams explained.

However, the Mustangs are a complete team and every player that checks into the game is asked to contribute, and on Monday night, they did. All seven Mustangs that played scored at least two points and grabbed a rebound. All but one registered an assist and all but two tallied a steal.

“The way we push the ball out ahead, a lot of people should have an assist,” Adams said. “In the half-court setting, we don’t have any set plays for any one individual. We want to be unselfish; we want to keep moving and we want to share the basketball. Eventually, if we do that, we’re gonna get an open look.”

The fast-paced style of play that the Mustangs run is a key factor in their high-point total. The good news is that the offense is averaging 64.3 points per game. The bad news is that the defense is allowing 65.3 points per game. But that is the risk a team runs when playing aggressively on both ends of the floor.

On Monday, the Mustangs dominated the first quarter, scoring 18 points and allowing the Lions to score just four. Midd-West played a full-court press for most of the quarter and forced a handful of turnovers, which lead to easy baskets in transition. A direct result of that was the 9-0 run that the Mustangs started the game on.

“If we play like we’re capable of playing, we’re gonna get up and down the floor and we’re gonna score points,” Adams said. “When we pound the dribble and walk it up the floor, then we struggle to score, so we want to create tempo… I thought we could score points and so far, we’re doing that.”

In the second quarter, the Lions’ offense picked up some steam, but the Mustangs never allowed them to get any momentum. With shots falling for both sides, the score at halftime ballooned to 34-18.

The entire second half played out much like the second quarter. The Mustangs were unable to keep Meadowbrook Christian’s top scorers Ashton Canelo and Evan Young off the board, but Midd-West would match them basket for basket.

The duo of Canelo and Young combined for 20 points in the second half, but Reid’s 13 second-half points were more than enough to keep the Lions within striking distance.

Before the game, the seniors were honored during the customary Senior Night that all Midd-West team’s hold to recognize their graduating athletes in front of the home crowd. While this year was a bit different than years past, Adams wanted his seniors to finish the game on the floor, something which they all deserved after putting Midd-West basketball back on the map.

“On a normal night I would have gone a little deeper (into the bench), but it was Senior Night and I wanted to see them finish on the floor because quite honestly, these seniors have given me everything I’ve asked of them,” Adams said. “Three years ago, we were not very well-respected. Year in and year out we kept moving the needle in the right direction and hopefully with the leadership of this class, we make it back to districts this year.”

Midd-West 71, Meadowbrook Christian 49

MEADOWBROOK CHRISTIAN

Ashton Canelo 8 5-9 21, Evan Young 6 1-4 13, Jacob Reed 4 0-0 9, Noah Smith 3 0-1 6. Totals: 21 6-14 49.

3-point goals: Reed.

Did not score: Michael Smith, Jacob Bair.

MIDD-WEST

Braedon Reid 8 2-4 22, Chris Fisher 6 0-0 15, Stefan Leitzel 6 1-1 13, Eli Swan 3 0-0 7, Hunter Wolfley 3 0-0 6, Griffen Paige 2 1-2 6, Cole Shutt 1 0-0 2. Totals: 29 4-7 71.

3-point goals: Reid 4, Fisher 3, Swan, Paige.

Score by quarters:

MC 4-14-16-15 49

MW 18-16-16-21 71

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