Surging ahead in the second quarter, the Union basketball Wildcats rolled to a Four Rivers Conference win Tuesday in Owensville, 59-28.
“I thought from one to 10, our guys played their tails off and executed,” Union Head Coach Chris Simmons said. “There was no letdown on that line. That’s the thing I was most proud of tonight. Sometimes, when you get a lead, you might just go through the motions. Nobody did that tonight. Our communication was top-notch on defense. On rebounding, they were one and done. Defensively, I thought our kids made adjustments and took away what they wanted to do. They imposed their will on Owensville tonight, which was good to see.”
The Wildcats (12-7, 4-0) face a huge FRC showdown in Sullivan Friday against the Eagles (16-4, 3-0). The contest could go a long way toward determining the league champion this season.
“It’s going to be a packed house,” Simmons said. “They’re going to be honoring their softball team and celebrating their senior night. We’ll have a good crowd there, too. There are two undefeated conference teams looking to stay that way. We’re going to have to play our best Friday.”
Union led 11-8 after one quarter, but exploded in the second. The Wildcats netted 13 in a row before Owensville responded.
For the quarter, Union outscored the Dutchmen, 16-2.
Owensville was held scoreless in the second quarter until the final 20 seconds, when Austin Terry hit a shot. It was the only score for the Dutchmen in the second quarter. It was 27-10 at the break.
The Wildcats picked up the pace in the second half. In the third quarter, Union outscored the Dutchmen, 19-10, driving the score to 46-20. Union knocked down three of its eight three-point baskets in that quarter.
“It started on defense,” Simmons said. “When you have that mentality, when you get stops, it often translates to good offensive looks. When your mindset is about getting good stops on the defensive end, good offense usually follows. In our last couple of games, we weren’t able to do that.”
After that point, Simmons started moving his starters off the floor and gave his reserves plenty of playing time. That group outscored the Dutchmen by a 13-8 margin in the fourth quarter.
Owensville continued its slow, deliberate passing offense, seeking an opening, until late in the fourth quarter.
“Our guards were able to gamble a little bit and made good reads on their cross-court and swing passes,” Simmons said. “We were able to get some deflections. They haven’t been doing that because they didn’t want to get beaten. Tonight, they trusted their teammates a little more and got out and got deflections and easy buckets off of it.”
Union’s starting five accounted for 46 points.
Trevor Kelly led the Wildcats in scoring with 13 points, starting with six points in the opening quarter.
Wil Strubberg netted 12 points, including a three-point basket just before the halftime buzzer.
Jacob Towell closed with nine points.
Peyton Burke netted eight points.
The fifth starter, Kale Crawford, had four points.
Austin Helms led the reserves with five points.
Derek Hulsey and Chase Mehler each hit three-point baskets for their three points.
Lance Corum contributed two points.
Union was able to make key passes inside the Owensville defense to set up easier shots.
“Our kids are not selfish,” Simmons said. “They don’t care who scores, they just want to win. Offensively, that really helps itself. That’s hard to achieve in the social media age where everyone wants to score. These kids just want to win and have a good time doing it.”
Union went 7-8 from the free-throw line while Owensville was 2-5 from the stripe.
For the Dutchmen, Terry was the top scorer with eight points.
Justin Garner netted five points.
Brady Smith checked in with four points while Trevor Abernathy ended with three.
Two-point scorers were Daxton Mehrhoff, Cason Gray, Tyler Heidbrink and Zaid Epstein.