By Steve Wilaj
As if the Crestview defenders weren’t enough, Mineral Ridge guard Corey Phillips faced another battle heading into Tuesday’s matchup.
“He wasn’t really feeling too well,” Rams coach Chris Kohl said. “He had a little bit of a sore throat.”
Looking like the sickness might get the best of him, Phillips began the game on the bench. But after a couple minutes, he received a message from Kohl.
“Coach told me to fight it,” Phillips said. “So I fought it. I just kept pushing and pushing for my team, trying to fight it.”
In the end, Phillips got the best of his sickness — as well as the Crestview defense — leading Mineral Ridge to a 59-53 victory with a 20-point performance.
“We just decided to send Corey in, because he’s too valuable of a player to sit that long,” Kohl said. “The past three games he’s been playing the best basketball of his season. He’s playing smart, hitting big shots for us. He gets us going on both ends of the floor.”
Trailing 15-13 after the first quarter, the Rams (9-4, 7-1 Inter Tri-County League Tier One) outscored the Rebels 19-7 in the second period behind strong play from Phillips. That quarter proved pivotal, as it was the lone quarter Crestview was outscored.
“To win three quarters of basketball, that’s not enough to win a game,” Crestview coach Herman Miller said. “We got close. Did some good things in some spots, but the turnovers were too many.”
Mineral Ridge knocked down 8 of 22 3s, many of which came in response to a Crestview run. The Rebels (7-5, 4-4) cut the Rams advantage to six points three times in the fourth quarter.
“Maintaining the lead was big when they cut into it,” Kohl said. “Phillips hit a big bucket, and when players step up for you like Corey or Ryan Nutter or Zac Hagy, that’s what makes you a team.”
Hagy scored 16 points, knocking down four 3s, while Nate Palmer added 14 points. Leading Crestview was Robert Logan with 27 points and 13 rebounds.
Unlike Phillips, the flu bug got the best of Crestview’s second-leading scorer and assists leader Collin Gilbert, forcing him to sit out.
“It was a disappointing day to find out our point guard was out with mono,” Miller said. “That was a hit, no doubt about it, but we expect our guys to step up and make plays behind him.”
With the win, Mineral Ridge created separation between themselves and Crestview in the Tier One standings.
“We’re starting to put it together, play with a little bit of confidence,” said Kohl, who — along with his entire coaching staff — is in his first year at Ridge. “It’s kind of new territory for us in this program, so I’m real happy with the way they played tonight.”