By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
MADISON TOWNSHIP —
With his team playing its second game in as many nights on Saturday, Madison boys coach Pat Moran didn’t want to chance tiring out his players. Instead, he had them slow the pace down from what it usually is, and work on their halfcourt defense.
Moran liked what he saw of that in the Blue Streaks’ 63-48 win over visiting Conneaut.
“It’s tough coming off back-to-back (after beating Geneva 67-47 on Friday); you just don’t know what you have in the tank,” Moran said. “I think we kind of learned last week with our back-to-back against South and Mayfield, when we went back and pressured and we got fatigued real easy. It’s live-and-learn, and we were one man down without Brandon Burkholder (illness and head injury) today. So we just had to be workmanlike and get a W.”
“Our scouts had seen them play; I’d seen tape of them,” Conneaut coach Tim Tallbacka said. “They are real up-tempo. They were nowhere near that up-tempo tonight. They certainly pressed us in the forecourt the whole game, but it certainly wasn’t the tempo (they usually play).”
Madison (3-4, 2-4), which got off to a 10-2 lead, was in front from wire to wire in the non-conference battle. It held the Spartans to 20-of-64 (31.3 percent) from the floor, including 8-of-32 and a total of 17 points in the second half.
‘Madison’s a good defensive team,” Tallbacka, whose team is now 1-5, said. “They put a lot of pressure on you. In looking at our shot chart, we missed a lot of layups; I thought we missed more easy shots in the first half than in the second.”
“We’re doing a little bit better job in the halfcourt defense,” Moran, who went on to compliment Tallbacka’s teaching of the offense to his players, said. “They’re a pretty patterned team, and they have some good shooters, and we wanted to key on some of those kids. I don’t think they had the best of shooting nights. So as a coach, you would like to think you had a hand in it. But I thought we started doing a better job of limiting them to one shot, some contested shots. I thought we played pretty well halfcourt defensively — better than in the past.”
John Dahlhausen led everyone with 21 points and added 9 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. His 3-pointer as the two-minute mark approached helped to put the game away after the score had been stuck at 56-43 for about three minutes.
“It was (56-43) for the longest time,” Tallbacka said. “It was about 5 possessions. We got 5 stops in a row and didn’t score. If we cut that lead to 4 or 6, it might have been a different game at the end. But they hit a 3, and they went into their stall game.”
‘In that situation, I wanted to call timeout, but at some point the kids have to learn to play and battle through,” Moran said. “And we were in a situation where we were up double digits where I didn’t think we had to (call timeout) — because I think both teams were gassed at that point. We wanted to hit a shot to kind of settle it down, but at the same time they’re young men, and they have to learn to handle adverse situations.
“I though that was a telling time, not in a positive sense, because we took some rushed, tired 3-pointers (and) we didn’t finish strong at the basket.”
Madison shot just 30.7 percent from the floor itself, but had more opportunities (75) than Conneaut, and also went to the line on five more occasions, hitting seven more (13-of-18 as opposed to 6-of-10). A lot of that was attributable to the fact it forced 23 turnovers to its own 14, and gave the ball up just 4 times after the break.
“That number’s going down,” Moran said. “That’s kind of like a parent dealing with a kid with a fever; you want that number to go down, because the higher that number goes up, it gets uncomfortable. We’re starting to try to take care of the ball.”
Jack Holl had another strong night on the inside for Madison with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Teammate Jordan McClure had 12 points, 5 assists and 6 steals, while Aaron Petruccelli added 4 thefts and Vince Primer 8 boards.
Jake Spees had 11 boards, 4 assists and 6 blocks, Dylan Campbell 10 points and 7 caroms, Richie Burr 10 points, Justin Myers 9 points and 8 rebounds and Ryan Oatman 2 blocks for Conneaut.
Tallbacka related that his team needs to take quality shots.
“During that stretch in the third and early fourth quarter when we were trying to cut into (their lead), we were taking quick long jumpers,” he said. “We’ve got to understand that if the press break or the fast break isn’t there, we’ve got to be able slow it down and play at both speeds. We’re not doing a good job of that.”
The Blue Streaks led 23-14 at the end of the first quarter. The Spartans cut the deficit ro 5 points 3 times, but Madison pushed to 32-22 and then 41-27 before Conneaut closed the half with an Oatman jumper and a layup by Campbell (10 points, 7 rebounds) to make it 41-31.
A 7-0 Blue Steak spurt pushed it to 49-33, and a basket by Dahlhauen pushed it to 54-37 early in the final period before Conneaut got it down to 56-43.
“Congratulations to coach Moran,” Tallbacka, who praised his team’s effort and looked forward to a good remainder of the season for it, said. “They’re certainly getting their basketball legs back. (Dahlhausen) is a nice player. He hurt us in the first quarter (with 9 points). He got them off to that 9-point first-quarter lead, and that lead stood for pretty much the rest of the game.”
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.