Eighth-grade Tigers smother Carl Junction, 37-21
The Nevada Tiger eighth-grade basketball team is quickly developing into an elite defensive unit.
During its 24-game win streak dating back to last season, the Tigers have been known more for having a well-balanced offensive attack.
On a cold shooting night from the field Tuesday at Nevada Middle School, the Tigers still won comfortably, as they defeated visiting Carl Junction 37-21 to improve to 9-0.
Nevada eighth-grade head coach Lance Sargent said he recently installed a pack-line man-to-man defense.
A pack line defense is designed to clog the lane and prevent dribble penetration off the drive.
Nevada has had only one mediocre defensive performance to date, which came in last week's 49-44 victory over Joplin South. In defeat, Joplin drilled 10 3-pointers.
"We won't force as many turnovers out of this defense," Sargent said, "but we aren't giving up easy shots or allowing much dribble-penetration."
Sargent said he was pleased with his squad's defensive performance as the Tigers locked down Carl Junction from start to finish.
Nevada led 11-8 at the conclusion of the first quarter, as center Ben Hines dropped in six points.
Nevada opened the second quarter on a 9-0 blitz, with Hines scoring the first five points, followed by a Logan Applegate 12-foot jumper from the right-side. Hines then capped the run with a precision pass to a cutting Ty Thomas for the lay-in as Nevada led 20-8.
After limiting Joplin to just three second quarter points, the Tigers held a 23-11 halftime advantage.
Both teams were slow out of the gate in the third quarter. At the midpoint of the frame, a Hines close-range bucket handed Nevada its biggest lead of the night at 27-11.
Carl Junction's best stretch of basketball came over the final two minutes of the quarter, as a 6-0 spurt trimmed its deficit to 10.
Coming out of a timeout, Nevada's Lane McNeley showed off his euro-step, scoring on a tough drive to the basket as the Tigers increased its lead back to a dozen at 29-17.
After seeing its lead trimmed to nine with five minutes remaining in regulation, Nevada responded with six unanswered points, courtesy of a Hines lay-in assisted by Applegate, and two Kaden Denney baskets off the drive.
The Tigers were led in scoring by Hines, who finished with 16 points, 12 rebounds and three assists.
"At this level you have to have a guy who can score with his back to the basket, and Ben's done really well in that area," Sargent said. "I still want to see him use his left hand more. He likes to turn to his right."
Sargent continued, "Ben has come a long way. He's a great defensive player. I'm really impressed with his ability to stay out of foul trouble."
Following Hines in scoring was Denney, who finished with eight points.
"Kaden is a great kid," Sargent said of the combo guard. "His motor is always going 100 miles per hour on the floor. I think he rebounds as well as anybody we have. He crashes the glass hard."
Nevada's eighth-grade B-team beat Joplin South 35-16. Trey Moore led the way for Nevada, finishing with a game-high 13 points, while Ty Thomas and Wesley Balk combined for 16.
After opening the season with three consecutive losses, the Tigers have now reeled off six straight victories.
Sargent said the B-team's marked improvement is due to the quality competition it faces five days a week.
"I think competing against the A-team every day in practice has made them better," the veteran coach said. The B-team likes to get out and go. They love running the floor."
The Tigers seventh-grade A-team knocked off Carl Junction 34-26 in its home-finale Monday night at the Franklin P. Norman Community Center. For Nevada (2-7) Eli Cheaney tallied a team-high 11 points.
Nevada's B-team (4-4) was defeated 26-21 as Ethan Gravely pitched in 13 points.