Career night from JQ Roberts proves too much as Martinsville boys fall to Bloomington North

MARTINSVILLE — With the game clock ticking down to its final minute and the basketball in Bloomington North's hands, everybody in John Wooden Gymnasium knew where the ball was going.

Moments before, Martinsville senior Landon Myers had come up with a clutch bucket, converting on an and-one opportunity to give Martinsville its first lead, 56-55, since surrendering it late in the third quarter.

But with 54 seconds left, back to the basket, JaQualon Roberts received the ball, turned in stride and put in a finger roll layup, absorbing contact, adjusting mid-air and giving the Cougars a 57-56 lead.

Myers got one last open look from distance for a potential game winner, but Roberts' make would end up being the final blow as the Cougars escaped Martinsville with a 59-56 win.

"Tonight we played a Top 20 team and we competed with them right down to the wire," Martinsville coach Kip Staggs said. "We were in the hunt there down the stretch and the ball didn't go in the basket, but I'm very proud of our effort."

Bloomington North junior JaQualon Roberts works under the basket during Friday's game at Martinsville.
Bloomington North junior JaQualon Roberts works under the basket during Friday's game at Martinsville.

JQ Roberts takes over for Bloomington North

It wasn't a foregone conclusion the Cougars were going to come out with a victory, but thanks to a career night from Roberts, Bloomington North was able to stay in it.

Martinsville put together an 11-0 run before halftime to go up 33-24, with Roberts having 13 of those 24 points for Bloomington North. During the second half, he played even better, dropping 18 as the Cougars made their final push, which included outscoring the Artesians 20-7 in the third quarter.

"Being down nine at halftime is really tough on the road," Bloomington North coach Jason Speer said. "For us to come back and get this one, I'm very very happy."

Roberts was an intimidator in the paint defensively, rejecting shots left and right. He guarded the perimeter, harassing ball handlers on the wing. He came up with some steals that were converted to easy points.

On offense, it didn't really matter where he shot the ball from, it was going in.

Entering the game Roberts was shooting 27% from distance, but he got one to fall tonight. He was also shooting 52% from the foul line, but knocked down 10 of 13. Then, of course, the final basket to seal the deal.

When the buzzer sounded, he totaled 31 points, a new career high.

"Very active around the basket, very active on the perimeter, I really liked his defense," Speer said. "I think everything just kind of flowed tonight as it relates to his offense and his defense. Rhythm was good, and the team really kind of fed off his energy tonight."

Collective effort on both sides keeps Martinsville in it

Martinsville may not have walked away with a win, but it did make a statement.

The last two times these teams have met, Bloomington North walked away with blowout wins. In 2021, the final score was 86-36. In 2020, it was 72-28.

To even be in the position to have the final look to potentially beat a team that's been ranked in the Top 20 all but one week shows how far the Artesians have come in just one season.

The reason the Artesians have found success this year is because of a collective effort. It's clear they believe in one another and that shined through tonight.

"You've got to have all hands on deck and I thought we did tonight," Staggs said. "We've just got to keep hitting on that rock, and we're going to break through. I told them after the game that our time is gonna come, we just got to continue down this path and stay positive."

Myers stands out, but everyone pitched in

While Myers was the standout, scoring a team-high 20 points, it took everybody to get it down to the wire. Brody Staggs hit some big shots, but foul trouble tied him up and caused him to have to exit the game. Luke Cheatham had seven big points. Will Bastin had five, Skylar Pruett and Isaiah Marlett four.

Martinsville senior Landon Myers shoots a technical foul shot in front of a big student section and his team's bench during Friday's game at home against Bloomington North.
Martinsville senior Landon Myers shoots a technical foul shot in front of a big student section and his team's bench during Friday's game at home against Bloomington North.

The Cougars had the clear height advantage, yet it wasn't all that obvious as the Artesians held their own in the rebounding battle. Roberts had his way, but the rest of the Cougars were held to single digits.

"Defensively we did a really good job overall," Staggs said. "He (Roberts) played well, and he made shots, but I thought we did a good job with their other guys. We knew five (Nate Hoffman) and 10 (Marco Fitch) were good shooters and we held them under their average, but you got to credit Roberts, he shot it really well tonight."

In last week's loss to Decatur Central, Staggs wasn't sure he'd seen his team compete all 32 minutes. But tonight, after a full week of practice, it was clear they did just that.

"I thought Landon was really good throughout the game. But I thought, for the most part, we had really good commitment on both ends of the floor. I thought we played with a sense of urgency for 32 minutes. When we play that way, we're a pretty good basketball team."

Bloomington North junior Bril Kante goes high up for an out-of-bounds pass and draws a foul during Friday's game at Martinsville.
Bloomington North junior Bril Kante goes high up for an out-of-bounds pass and draws a foul during Friday's game at Martinsville.

Looking ahead

For a second week in a row, Martinsville will get a full four day practice schedule as they next play at Mid-State Conference opponent Perry Meridian on Jan. 21.

The Cougars also get a week long break as they gear up to play Evansville North on the same date.

Contact reporter Devin Voss at dvoss@gannett.com, or follow him on Twitter at @DevinVoss23.

This article originally appeared on The Reporter Times: Career night from JQ Roberts proves too much as Martinsville falls to Bloomington North