The Braves bested Trumbull Athletic Conference rival Newton Falls.
By DOUG CHAPIN
KINSMAN -- Badger High played a great first half, weathered a Newton Falls comeback and pulled the Tigers -- ranked fourth among Division III teams in the latest Associated Press poll -- back into the pack in the tight Trumbull Athletic Conference race with a 59-44 triumph Friday night.
The Braves (9-2, 6-2) used an 18-6 second quarter to take a 31-20 halftime advantage. Newton Falls (10-2, 6-2) responded with a 15-6 third quarter and came close to tying the score before settling for a 37-35 deficit at the buzzer.
Badger, though, took good care of the basketball against the Tigers' active defense and maintained its poise, never allowing the score to be tied before pulling away down the stretch.
"It was the type of game we expected," Badger coach Bill Bogan said. "The final point differential was a bit of a shock, though. We knew they would extend their zone and I thought our depth of ballhandling was a factor, though we did better protecting the ball than I would have imagined."
Keeping control: The Braves committed just 10 turnovers for the game. Point guard Ryan Miller scored just four points but had an excellent floor game. Forward Josh Upshire sparked the Braves with 14 points, seven rebounds, five assists and five steals. Brett Bell added 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting, Mitch Logan had 10 points and Josh Klingensmith had seven points and three blocked shots.
"They outplayed us in the first half and I thought that was the difference," Newton Falls coach Roy Sembach said. "They came out a step quicker. They beat us to loose balls, rebounds and on drives to the baskets.
"We made a tremendous comeback, but that takes a lot of energy. We had a couple 3s go in and out, the ball just wouldn't drop," Sembach said. "If we had tied the game it might have made a difference, but Badger didn't panic and they deserved to win."
Jeff Stanley led the Tigers with 18 points. Newton Falls was ranked sixth in the state last week and improved to fourth in the poll released this week.
"The state ranking is bulletin board material," Bogan said. "We used it for a little motivation. But the ranking is well-deserved. They have a right to be there. Roy does a fantastic job with their program."
Sembach knows the rating puts a bulls-eye on the back of the Tigers.
"The ranking is very nice for the school and the community," the veteran coach said. "But it doesn't mean that much in basketball because you have a chance to prove yourself in the tournament. We've made it to the final 16 in the state the last two years and weren't ranked either year.
"Teams get extra fired up and it's a challenge for us," he continued. We have to match their intensity and that may make us better in the long run."
Upshire was very active for Badger in the first half, getting five of his rebounds and four of his steals.
Responding: When Newton Falls was forced to stretch its defense even more late in the game, Upshire responded with a couple nice assists and a 5-of-6 performance at the line.
He sat the last part of the third quarter after picking up his third foul and Newton Falls cut the lead from nine to two during that period.
"In the third quarter we got a little hesitant offensively," Bogan said. "But we stepped up our defense. We weathered the storm with good defense and rebounding. They didn't have a lot of second shots."
Sembach gave the Badger defense credit.
"They played good solid man-to-man defense and denied the passing lanes," he said. "But I was disappointed we didn't take advantage of our size. I thought we should have looked inside more, especially in the first half. We settled too often for 3-pointers."
The Tigers shot just 4-of-18 from 3-point range, 16-of-45 overall. Badger was 21-of-44 shooting, including 3-of-10 from behind the arc. The Braves had the edge at the foul line, 14-of-21 compared to Newton Falls' 8-of-12 performance.