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PRINCETON — The Mendota boys basketball team didn’t do anything fancy or shoot out the lights against Princeton in Thursday’s non-conference game in Princeton.
Instead, the Trojans pounded the ball in the paint and used the extra effort on defense that coach Jan Thompson likes to see from his squad to earn a 65-52 victory.
“I thought our hustle was decent — I didn’t think that we made smart hustle plays all the time — but we were at least hustling,” Thompson said. “That’s what I told them, in order to beat teams on the road just like the other night against Stillman Valley, we have to outhustle the home-court team. I thought for the most part we did that tonight.”
Mendota’s full-court defense and non-stop pressure on the ball throughout every inch of the hardwood created problems for the Tigers offense, while Mendota pounded it in the paint as much as it could.
If the Trojans weren’t scoring on the first shot, the team’s effort on the offensive glass gave it another opportunity.
Princeton coach Jesse Brandt found out early that his team had to buckle down on rebounds and box-out Mendota.
“We gave them 11 offensive boards in the first half,” Brandt said. “That was part of the key to them leading in the first half. We did do a better job in the second half, limiting them to three offensive boards. We did a decent job ourselves, but we had a hard time scoring at times.”
Behind junior Ryan Reeder’s nine points in the first quarter and senior Sam Bowne’s seven points in the second quarter, Mendota found itself ahead 16-6 at the end of the first eight minutes and had a 29-21 lead at halftime.
Even though Princeton was trailing, the Tigers were accomplishing their pregame goal.
“I thought we did some good things early,” Brandt said. “In the first half, we did a nice job on (James) Carroll. He was the focus, obviously. He’s the leader for them. We held him to three first-half points. A couple of guys made some plays and some shots for them, which is what we wanted to have happen. Make someone else beat us. “
Reeder and Bowne kept Mendota ahead until Carroll came alive in the second half and scored 11 of his 14 points on the game. Carroll scored seven points in the last three minutes of the third quarter to help build the Trojan lead to 48-33 after three quarters.
Reeder led Mendota with 17 points and grabbed a game-high seven rebounds, while Bowne scored nine points and grabbed five rebounds. Freshman Joe LaShonse also had nine points for the Trojans.
After the Jan. 5 loss against Byron, Thompson was upset with his team for continuing to shoot 3-pointers when they were not making them or shooting them in situations that works best for the club.
Against Princeton, Mendota only put up six 3-point attempts and made one.
“Our 3-point shots have to come from inside the lane and (back) out,” Thompson said. “We’re not a good 3-point shooting team when we catch it from wing to wing and take the 3. We are a much better 3-point shooting team when we can get it inside the lane and then a kick-out 3 happens.
“I’m not opposed to making 3s, I just like to see us get the ball in the lane first and kick it out.”
Princeton scored 19 points in the fourth quarter to help cut the 17-point advantage Mendota had with four minutes remaining in the last quarter, but it wasn’t enough to catch up with the Trojans.
“You’d think we’d shoot a little bit better at our own court. It just didn’t go down tonight,” Brandt said. “…We haven’t shot well all year, but we haven’t played at home. I was hoping at home we’d get some shots to fall, but we didn’t get much to go down here either.”
Junior Garrett Duffin scored a game-high 21 points for the Tigers, while Brenton Schmidt came off of the bench to score 13 points.
Brandon LaChance can be reahed at 220-6995, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.
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