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Titans start tournament play with a win over Unity

January 7, 2013
Warsaw High School

WARSAW, Ill. — West Hancock Head Coach Reno Pinkston got his point across to his team before the start of the Hancock County Tournament Invitational Saturday. The Titans responded with a strong performance over the Unity Mustangs.

West Hancock outscored Unity 22-6 in the second quarter to take a 30-11 halftime lead. The Titans went on to defeat the Mustangs 63-33 at Warsaw High School.

“We talked about (the tournament) in our walk through,” Pinkston said. “They made some mistakes, and I stopped them. I said, ‘You need to understand something. If we play well, we have a chance to win this tournament, but if we don’t we could go 0-4. I’m not just saying that. I mean that. It’s up to you to decide how you are going to play.’

“I thought our kids did the things they needed to do. We were talking on dead balls and discussing during the timeouts to finish this thing our way. When we’re playing well, I feel we have a chance to win games. If we don’t play well, it’s really up for grabs. We’re not talented enough to get away with not playing well or playing hard. We don’t have as many weapons offensively to outscore people. We don’t have that. If we play hard defensively, 5-on-5 basketball, we have a chance to win.”

Unity entered the game with momentum after wining the Mississippi Valley Invitational Tournament in the final week of December. The Mustangs won three games to improve to 10-5 on the season.

Unity kept the game close in the first quarter. Will Klusmeyer hit a three-pointer in the final seconds of the first quarter to pull the Mustangs to within 8-5.

It was as close as Unity would get the rest of the game.

Austin Hardy and Paxton Harmon started the second quarter with three-pointers to push the lead to 14-5. Lane Davis, a 6-6 center, scored inside for Unity with 4:33 left in the first half to cut the deficit to seven, but Coy Dorothy followed with a three-pointer, and Harmon turned a steal into a basket to make the score 19-7.

Thomas Donley scored after a Parker Gibbs blocked shot to trim the margin to 10, but Hardy sparked an 9-0 run at the end of the half. Hardy hit a three-pointer with 1:04 left, then added a four-point play with 41 seconds remaining in the half.

West Hancock led 30-11 at halftime. The Titans held Unity to 4 of 20 shooting (20 percent) from the field and forced 12 turnovers.

“People talk about creating turnovers in the full-court. We try to create them in the half-court,” Pinkston said. “When we lock in 5-on-5, we’re trying to get to areas where we make it difficult by scrambling. Sometimes guys will throw passes they think are open, but they’re not because we’re coming. They see they are open, but by the time they throw, we have a guy scrambling in the area. When we’re playing well, we create a lot of half-court turnovers.”

Unity tried to get back into the game at the start of the third quarter. The Mustangs scored the first seven points of the second half to close to within 12 points. West Hancock, however, answered with eight straight points of its own to stretch the lead to 38-18.

“You always want to start out the first three or four minutes really well,” Pinkston said. “Unfortunately for us, we gave up some open looks and turned the ball over, but to our guys credit, they shored it up on their own. I didn’t call a time-out at that point. It was up to them, and they did a nice job of taking care of things.”

West Hancock finished the game strong by outscoring Unity 25-11 in the fourth quarter. Parker Gibbs scored 12 of his 13 points in the final quarter.

“I thought our spacing was pretty good as was our decision making on where we received the ball in scoring areas,” Pinkston said. “I thought Parker posted up in some good angles when we had the ball on the wing. Paxton was being Paxton. He did have some silly turnovers in the third quarter that is not indicative of him. When he has the ball in his hands and he is making good decisions, I feel pretty good about what is going to happen. When he was out, I thought our guys did a nice job of handling the ball.”

Hardy made five three-pointers and finished with a game-high 16 points to lead West Hancock, 13-3 on the season. Gibbs had 13 points. Dorothy and Harmon each tallied 12 points. Drew Beeler tossed in four points, and Wesley Shipe and Marcus Longenecker each finished with three points.

Andrew Doyle, Alex Blickhan and Davis each had six points to pace Unity. Klusmeyer added five points.Blake Wittler and Dylan Shaffer each had four points, and Donley finished with two points.

Unity plays Keokuk in the tournament at 6 p.m. today. West Hancock squares off against Illini West at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The Chargers recently defeated West Hancock for fifth-place at the Macomb-Western Holiday Tournament.

“We have a sour-taste in our mouth after the last time we played them,” Pinkston said. “We kept ourselves in the game, but we made some glaring mistakes on some switches. We were giving up some easy lay-ups. We were turning the ball over in the full-court, and they got some lay-ups off of it. We had an intentional foul which turned into a four- or five-point play. We can’t have those things.”


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