Another quarter, and who knows what might have happened?
Mekeel Christian Academy played a superb first half before struggling down the stretch in a 56-50 Westen Athletic Conference win over Berne-Knox-Westerlo Wednesday night.
“We came out fired up in the first half. We knew they were one of the better teams in the league and they could beat us,” said Mekeel senior Mano Senthil. “In the second half, we let down our guard and let them hang around.”
The Lions led by as many as 21 points in the first half, 25-4, after putting together a 12-0 run, and the Bulldogs started to whittle away against a Mekeel team that hadn’t lost a WAC Southern Division game since the 2009-10 season.
“The ball didn’t move. The ball got sticky. We took too many shots with their defense set up. We didn’t get them to collapse,” said Mekeel coach Chad Bowman. “When your offense bogs down and you miss free throws, it’s a formula for the other team to come back.”
Mekeel (5-0, 8-0) took over sole possession of first place in the division with the uneven win, but momentum was on the side of Berne-Knox-Westerlo (4-1, 6-3) when Justin Houck nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer to create the final margin.
Maclin Norray scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half, and Houck had 12 of his 14 during that stretch to spark the Bulldogs.
“In the first half, we didn’t play well. We were sluggish. We were jogging to spots. We missed a few free throws,” said Berne-Knox-Westerlo coach Tim Moseman. “Our goal was to win the second half, and we did. I really liked the way we played defense and got rebounds.”
Berne-Knox-Westerlo outscored Mekeel in the third quarter, 14-11, and in the fourth, 23-15, after trailing at the break, 30-13.
“We came out flat in the second half,” said Senthil, who led the Lions with 18 points while adding five assists. “It’s something we’ve got to work on. It’s better to learn from a win than a loss.”
Senthil was Mekeel’s most efficient player in the second half with 11 points, including a clutch three from the wing with 2:30 left that gave his team a 54-43 advantage. Cory Depeaux had nailed a short jumper just before that to trim the Bulldogs’ deficit to eight.
“I didn’t realize how big it was at the time,” said Senthil. “I just play. I was open, and I just shot it.”
“We ran him off three screens to get that look,” said Bowman. “It was a big one.”
Mekeel missed the front end of one-and-ones shortly before and just after Senthil’s three, and went 4-for-18 from the line in all.
“They’re momentum killers,” said Bowman of his team’s free-throw woes. “You get what you want and come up empty.”
Damonte White scored eight of his 11 points in the first half for Mekeel, and Mike Mann generated all of his eight over the initial two quarters. Mann drilled a three and scored on a layup to start the contest, and White delivered his eight in the 12-0 spurt that spanned the first two frames.
Herbie Sexton had six of his seven assists in the first half to go with two steals, and the junior also drew a charging foul.
Zack Hilton ended the first half with a three for Berne-Knox-Westerlo, and the freshman began the third-quarter scoring with two foul shots. Norray followed with a three-point play as momentum started to shift.
Hilton totaled 13 points, and Norray ended up with 10 rebounds and five steals.
Depeaux 2-0-4, Lee 1-1-3, Norray 7-2-16, Houck 5-1-14, Hilton 4-4-13. Totals: 19-8-50.
MEKEEL CHRISTIAN ACADEMY
Senthil 8-0-18, Newman 0-1-1, Sexton 2-2-6, Mann 3-0-8, A. Mulvey 3-0-8, Voelker 2-0-4, White 5-1-11. Totals: 23-4-56.
BKW 4 9 14 23 — 50
Mekeel 15 15 11 15 — 56
Three-point goals: Houck 2, Hilton 2, Senthil 2, Mann 2, A. Mulvey 2.