WILL WILLEMS- SPORTS EDITOR
DOVER — They haven’t been the prettiest games, but the Lebanon Tigers boys basketball team is finding ways to win in conference.
The Tigers out-scored rival Western Boone 21-7 in the third quarter to pull away and topped the Stars 45-32.
“I think we played the kind of basketball tonight that we needed to in order to win the game,” Lebanon head coach Albert Hendrix said. “Western Boone is a really physical basketball team. We knew that coming in and Scott (McClelland) does a great job with them . We were able to execute our game plan tonight . We were pretty prepared for what we thought they were going to do and our guys stepped up tonight and I am really proud of our basketball team.”
In the first half, the story was both teams inability to score. The Tigers led 14-10 at the half, despite shooting 3 of 13 (23.1 percent) from the field. Western Boone was even worse shooting 4 of 20 (20 percent).
For the game, Western Boone shot 11 of 42 (26.2 percent) and 0-of-9 from three. “It’s tough to win shooting 11 of 42,” Western Boone head coach Scott McClelland said. “We even had a couple of breakaway layups we didn’t finish. We have done a lot of different shooting drills in practice, and we did a great job with them there. It is just a bad feeling right now; it isn’t a good situation. We need to find a way to hit the basket. We changed the offense a little bit this week, tried to get JT (Whitaker) and Riggs (Baxter) the ball down low, but still couldn’t score. We were down four, missed a couple of opportunities and then we started to face adversity which we didn’t handle very well.”
Two Tiger freshmen helped the Tigers take a big lead in the third quarter.
Trevor Lakes scored the first five points on the third quarter to push the Lebanon lead to nine with 6:31 to play in the third. After a basket by Western Boone’s JT Whitaker, Clayton Barber went on a personal 8-2 run to push the lead to 13. Barber’s two 3-pointers in that stretch were the only two in the game for either team.
“There were times when we had two seniors and three freshmen on the floor, ” Hendrix said. “I thought Clayton Barber really stepped up tonight. He looked to score, he looked to attack and he hasn’t been doing that. Hopefully as we move on this season we can find nine or 10 guys to play and you saw tonight that guys were being productive.”
Lebanon led by as many as 20 in the third quarter and led by 18 after three. Western Boone got no closer than 11 in the fourth quarter.
The Tigers’ 21 points in the third frame were almost as many as they had the rest of the game combined (24). “We didn’t change anything other than a few minor adjustments,” Hendrix said. “They were trapping us on ball screens and we changed a few things there. But we felt like the game was being played at our pace, I don’t think Western Boone got a lot of points in transition which is their game. All the credit tonight goes to our kids.”
Lakes led all scored with 12 points. Barber, Isaac Harker and Nick Starkey all had nine points. Starkey added six rebounds. Hendrix said he thought the team took a step forward Friday night.
“We were struggling,” he said. “Friday night against Crawfordsville wasn’t pretty but we got the win and then we came back Saturday and we had some toughness issues and I thought we just backed down a little bit. We came out tonight and played hard and the result of that is a win. Hopefully our kids learn from this and keep doing it.”
The Tigers, now 3-2 and 2-0 in the conference, will be off until Friday, when they travel to Danville. Hendrix said the Tigers have to keep continuing to get better.
“Continue to do what we are doing,” Hendrix said. “For the younger kids, they need to keep on improving and our seniors need to continue to be leaders on and off the court. If we do that, we are going to have a nice season. I am very proud of them.”
For Western Boone, the 32 points scored marked the second fewest by a team in a Lebanon/Western Boone game in the last 20 years. What makes the loss even tougher for Western Boone is the 45 points allowed were the fewest they have allowed all season.
“All the losses are tough and this was a conference game so it was a big deal,” McClelland said. “It was a great atmosphere out there and the kids are disappointed. They played hard, they had the effort, we just struggle a little bit with adverse situations. I am not going to put the blame on anyone other than myself. We have to get it fixed. We have to continue to work on what we do, we have to get better.”
Baxter led the Stars with 11 points and Whitaker had 10. McClelland said he wasn’t sure after the game what they could do to stop the shootingwoes for the Stars. The Stars have shot better than 35 percent only once this season, the loss to Tri-West.
“I really wish I had the answer,” McClelland said. “Right now we just can’t hit the basket. We have to keep shooting and have to keep putting ourselves in good positions. And I know I keep saying it, but when we miss shots, then it affects the defense too. The whole thing is just tough to handle. We need a win, that will cure a lot of the problems.”
The Stars, now 0-5, will host Southmont in a conference double-header Friday night. “We have to keep working on our shooting and we need to tighten up our defense a little bit,” McClelland said. “We are still a little loose on defense, although 45 points should be good enough to allow you to win. But we don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves. We just have to get better and that falls on me, I have to get it fix. I have been doing this long enough to know that we need to just tell the kids to keep working and keep their noses to the grindstone. That is tough to hear over and over, human nature is to get sick of it, but that is what we have to do.”
Box Score Lebanon 9 5 21 10 -45 Western Boone 4 6 7 15 -32 Lebanon (3-2) Sam Godby 0-2 2-2 2, Trevor Lakes 4-8 4-6 12, Kolton McKinnies 0-2 2-2 2, Isaac Harker 2-7 5-6 9, Nick Starkey 3-9 3-5 9, Tre Hurst 0-1 0-0 0, Clayton Barber 3-3 1-3 9, Trevor Boyne 1-3 0-0 2, Noah Molter 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 13-35 17-24 45. Western Boone (0-5) Logan Wethington 0-6 0-0 0, Braxton Porter 2-7 2-2 6, JT Whitaker 4-9 2-4 10, Riggs Baxter 4-8 3-4 11, Zach Martin 0-2 0-0 0, Nathanial Bye 0-3 1-2 1, Austin Burtner 1-7 2-2 4. Totals: 11-42 10-14 32. 3-pointers: Lebanon 2-7 (Barber 2-2, Lakes 0-2, Godby 0-2, Hurst 0-1), Western Boone 0-9 (Burtner 0-4, Porter 0-3, Wethington 0-2). Rebounds: Lebanon 34 (Godby 6, Harker 6, Starkey 6, Boyne 4, Barber 3, Lakes 3, McKinnies 1), Western Boone 24 (Whitaker 6, Bye 3, Baxter 2, Burtner 2, Porter 2, Wethington 2, Martin 1). Assists: Lebanon 5 (Starkey 2), Western Boone 3 (Baxter, Porter, Whitaker). Turnovers: Lebanon 14, Western Boone 7. Fouls: Lebanon 13, Western Boone 20.