As Southwestern prepared Sunday morning for its battle with Sherman later that evening, Coach Andrew Krenzer pulled 6-foot-1 forward Pete Trathen aside and the two had a little chat.
"I challenged Pete today during our walk-through," Krenzer said. "I said, 'Pete, we are two very even teams, but you're the only that can make this game for us. They don't have a Pete, and you can take over.'"
Trathen, it seems, took those words to heart.
Southwestern’s Alek Peck shoots a jumper over a Sherman defender during the championship game of the Southwestern TaBone Christmas Classic on Sunday night at Jamestown Community College. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Rob Tucker
The athletic senior, who was matched in height but not in size by the Sherman posts, went 4 of 6 from the field and tallied eight of his 10 points in the second half. Four points came during a crucial 10-3 run in the third quarter and two more capped a small, though game-clinching, 4-0 run early in the fourth to lead the Trojans past Sherman, 48-38, in the Southwestern TaBone Christmas Classic.
The victory was the first for host Southwestern in the Christmas Classic's three-year run, and for his efforts Trathen, who also had a team-high nine rebounds, was selected the tournament's Most Valuable Player.
"He did it," Krenzer said with a smile after the win. "He did a great job."
So did a number of Trojans.
Along with consistent scorers Alek Peck, who was named to the all-tournament team after netting a game-high 13 points with seven rebounds and five assists, and Kyle Radack, whose point total (seven) was diminished somewhat due to foul trouble, role players Nick Baglia (six points) and Andrew Greenlee (five points) came through, at both ends of the court.
Heck, even jayvee-call-up Pat Mogenhan chipped in with a trey during the Trojans 16-point opening quarter.
"I said it last night (after our win over Chautauqua Lake)," Krenzer said. "Alek and Radack are going to get their points, but when Pete and some of the other kids step up, that's the difference."
Baglia got things started 45 seconds into play with a triple from the right wing, then back-to-back 3s by Peck and Mogenhan gave the Trojans a 16-9 advantage after eight minutes.
Sherman's Devin Moorhead, who along with fellow prolific scorers Andrew Graham and Ryan Robson had hit a couple of critical 3-point shots the night before, answered with a pair of 3-pointers, and then Robson, who was an all-tournament selection as well, hit one of his own from the top of the arc to quickly erase the deficit. By half the score was tied at 22.
It was then that the Southwestern defense, though solid already to that point, really locked down.
With Moorhead in foul trouble - after hitting his two 3-pointers he sat for much of the second with two fouls, and then two minutes into the third he sat again after picking up his third - Krenzer switched his defense to a triangle-and-two with Greenlee and Baglia manning-up on Graham and Robson.
The plan worked. Not only did the setup help Trathen and the rest of the triangle rack up rebounds (Southwestern won in that department, 28-19), which was crucial in slowing the usually fast-paced Wildcats, but it also did much to deny Graham and Robson the ball.
"They slowed our pace to a crawl," Sherman coach Cory Emory said. "They didn't want to run with us and my young guys got a little frustrated. The boards were big, too, and I think our young team learned a little bit of a lesson tonight."
Graham, who had scored 29 points the night before, was held scoreless in the first half and made just one basket all night - a layup as time wound down at the end of the third quarter. Robson, meanwhile, netted just six.
"We just tried to deny them the ball," Krenzer said. "Andrew Greenlee and Nick Baglia did a phenomenal job manning up, and our triangle-and-two was very effective. Also, as a whole, I thought we did a really good job of moving to their shooters, which (was key) because they have kids that can make it from 8-feet beyond the arc."
The Sherman offense stalled in the second half - it would score just 16 points on the way to the season-low 38 - Southwestern carried a four-point lead, 36-32, into the final period, and following Greenlee's second 3-pointer of the night that capped a 7-4 spurt, the Trojans had all but secured the victory.
"We just weren't quite as ready to play tonight," Emory said of his group. "It wasn't any one thing, but Southwestern did the little things to win the game, as older, more experienced teams do. Sometimes you just have a bad game, but that's taking nothing away from Southwestern, they forced us into a bad game."
NOTES: Jake Card led the Wildcats with 12 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks, earning him the tournament's Defensive Award.
Gleason 1 0 3, Graham 1 0 2, Robson 2 1 6, Moorhead 3 0 9, Myers 0 0 0, Luden 0 0 0, Boland 0 0 0, Card 5 2 12, Greiner 3 0 6, Ottaway 0 0 0. Totals 15 3 38.
Baglia 2 0 6, Greenlee 2 0 5, Rybicki 0 0 0, Peck 6 0 13, Moran 0 2 2, Trathen 4 2 10, Mogenhan 1 0 3, Gustafson 0 0 0, Radack 3 1 7, Schrope 1 0 2. Totals 19 5 48.
3-point goals: Gleason, Robson, Moorhead 3, Baglia 2, Greenlee, Peck, Mogenhan.
Sherman9 13 10 6 - 38
Southwestern16 6 14 12 - 48