MALVERN - In a near reversal of their eight-person match up on the football field last fall won by Cumberland-Anita-Messina 60-44, the East Mills basketball team ran away from the Cougars for a 60-46 Class 1A, District 15 victory.
The Wolverines (12-7) forced turnovers on six of CAM’s first nine possessions and opened the game on a 10-2 run. East Mills coach Kevin Schafer felt his team’s quickness and early defensive pressure was the difference against the bigger Cougars.
“In the first half the press worked pretty good. In the second half they definitely handled it better,” said Schafer. “Our biggest problem has been rebounding so we gave up a lot of second shots, but fortunately, they missed of lot of those put backs and their free throws.”
After leading 16-10 to end the first quarter, the Wolverines opened the second frame on an 11-3 run. A pair of free-throws by James Alger gave East Mills its biggest lead of the half at 34-16 with 1:09 to go.
East Mills’ lead swelled to as many as 20 points in the third quarter.
The Cougars managed to trim the lead to 42-27 with Clayton Schmidt’s layup with 3:24 left in the third quarter, but could get no closer.
Schafer said his team’s defense was aided by the Cougars’ poor shooting (32.7 percent from the field, 2-of-16 at the line) and inability to control the Wolverines’ guards. Backcourt mates Luke Schafer, A.J. Westover and Jake Doyle combined for 43 points.
“We were pretty fortunate they really only had one kid hitting from the outside the first three quarters. They hit some more when the game was out of hand but we gambled a little bit. We wanted to pack it in and hope their bigger guys didn’t hurt us,” Schafer said.
At times Schafer thought his team‘s zone press was his best offense against the Cougars.
“We needed a spark occasionally,” said Schafer. “We’re not big so we need to get some easy baskets. When we score 60 or more points its usually because we push the ball and got some easy baskets. We usually plan but they went with a little different line up than when we scouted them earlier.
“We thought we could match up with them, but with this (bigger) lineup we had to play zone. We decided if we were going to play zone we’d play full court and get some easy baskets.”
Jake Bolton grabbed 17 rebounds and was one of four Wolverines to score in double-figures along with Westover (11 points, five assists), Schafer (16 points) and Doyle (15 points).
Schmidt led the Cougars with 13 points. Jaxson Armstrong added 12, all on four three-point shots.
East Mills advanced to play Elkhorn-Kimballton last night in the District 15 semifinals.