January 17, 2016
“Good try bro,” Miles Bridges said.
This was in response to the opposing big man that jawed some insults at the McDonald’s All-American on four occasions in a win for Huntington Prep (20-7). One of these instances induced a couple players and a referee to step between the two.
“That guy was calling me soft because my game was off when it first started, but when I got it going, I didn’t hear anymore talk,” Bridges said.
The Irish silenced Purcell Marian (OH) 83-57, but the Cavaliers played so well in the first half, their fans turned what was supposed to be a home-court advantage for Huntington Prep, into a neutral court with a playoff atmosphere.
Huntington Prep started the game in a 2-3 defense while the senior guards in Curtis Jones and Ivan Gandia would switch off the ball-handler. After possessions ended, they flipped the press switch early and tried to pressure the Cavaliers to the edges of the court with two to three men, while Curtis Jones or Luka Petrovic awaited for steals when or if the ball was thrown toward the middle of the court.
That didn’t happen much in the first half, as the Ohioans constantly threw over-top of the press,, and this, plus efficient shooting from Rashaad Ali-Shakir ultimately led to a 42-34 first half in Prep’s favor.
“You can’t out-quick the quick,” head coach Arkell Bruce said. “They do a good job spreading you out and beating you off the bounce. All we had to do was settle in, switch the guards and take care of the little things.”
The second half was a completely different story because of the man-to-man defense. With no scheme to beat, the game became player vs. player during offensive match ups for Purcell Marian and Huntington Prep took over because of this.
“We played them straight up,” Bruce said. “We played them honest because they had one guy (Ali-Shakir) who could consistently make shots, so we couldn’t switch off of him.”
“We just played them honest,” fellow McDonald’s All-American Curtis Jones said. “We forced them to make plays individually and took away number 5 (Ali-Shakir).”
Prep outscored the Cavs 41-23 in the second half and seemed pleased with the win.
“I thought it went well,” Bruce said. “The team that we played is a quick team. I wanted the guys to settle down and not let their emotions get the best of them. We got a lot of help from the crowd and it was a great atmosphere. I really appreciated them coming down. We weathered the storm and we did what we had to do in the second half to pull away.”
“It was a pretty good team win,” Gandia said. “The other team was good and they never quit.”
The win was almost a day after the teams 1-1 stint at the Flying to the Hoop tournament held in Kettering, Ohio during the Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend. They also played a game right before their six hour drive. However, Huntington Prep adjusted to trips like these months ago. Regardless of the distance and the losses to top-25 teams in the nation, this team knows how to stay in the hunt for national title.
“We have the toughest schedule in the nation,” Gandia said. “By now we’re already used to it. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs throughout the season, but we’re used to it and we’re going to grind every game out.”
Miles Bridges: 18 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks, one steal.
Curtis Jones: 22 points, four assists, six rebounds.
Onuralp Bitim: 22 points, one assist, three rebounds, three steals.
Micah Thomas: 3 points, five rebounds, one block.
Ivan Gandia: 7 points, five assists, four rebounds, one steal.
Luka Petrovic: 3 points, three assists, one rebound, one steal.
Jonathan Kabongo: 8 points, three rebounds, two blocks.