Mountaineers drop close game to Erwin

Nov. 23—Tuscola's boys basketball team kept it close throughout the game but ultimately fell 93-72 to the Erwin Warrior Tuesday, Nov. 22, at home.

Erwin started on an 11-2 run, but Tuscola fought back to make it 28-20 at one point in the first quarter before the Warriors finished it with a 32-25 lead.

In the second, both teams took turns scoring, but Erwin led throughout. The Warriors closed the first half with a narrow 54-46 lead.

The Warriors found a rhythm in the third and extended their lead to 81-61 before the buzzer closed the quarter. In the fourth, a bevy of three-pointers allowed Erwin to stretch its lead and close the game with a 93-72 victory.

The win moves Erwin to 1-1 and drops Tuscola to 0-2 in the young season.

"I'm proud of the boys," said Tuscola head coach Ray Smith. "We fought for all four quarters. We had a little bit more of an intensity about us than on Friday night [against McDowell]. If we'd played [McDowell] versus our team tonight, we would've waxed [them] simply because of intensity and 'want to.' We were going to make them fight us until the end, all the way to blood being spilled on the court."

Blood was spilled on the court. Senior Jett Benson was cut open on the chin in the first quarter and continually exited the game to deal with the bleeding through the contest. He is the team's only senior player.

Smith said improvement comes with experience.

"We've had people leave, we've had people transfer, so they're just not used to each other yet," he said. "They don't know what somebody likes or somebody dislikes or how they want the ball passed to them. That comes with experience. We're going to keep grinding and putting days together. We're going to be fine."

The offense improved significantly from its game against McDowell on Nov. 18, in which Tuscola scored only 37 points.

Benson led the team with 28 points (two three-pointers). He also grabbed six rebounds and had one steal. Junior Bryant Oancea led the team with 12 rebounds, in addition to three points, one block and one steal. Junior Peyton Ollis led the team with two steals and added five points and three points to his stat sheet.

Rounding out the starting five, junior Kalem Robinson scored five points and grabbed two rebounds, and junior Hudson Blackburn stole one pass.

Junior Ashe Cathey was the top bench player, scoring 18 points (two three-pointers) and grabbing one rebound, one steal and blocking one shot.

Adding to the rotation was junior James Roundy, who scored two points, three rebounds and two blocks. Junior Malyk Gibbs scored five points, senior Graham McLelland scored three points and blocked two shots and junior Bryce Boyd had one rebound and scored one point.

Smith said he's switching up the rotation to find out which players have the legs for the game.

"Basketball is different from other sports. You don't get a break or a timeout between possessions," Smith said.

Smith added that improving the mental game is essential.

"You can't sit there and dwell about what happened on the defensive side or what kind of shot just happened. You've got to put it behind you and move on. We're sitting back and pitying about those things and letting them eat at us a little bit too much instead of putting them behind us and moving on. All that comes with game time and playing together," Smith said.

Smith said all 10 players stood out in the game (two players were out with sickness: junior Parker Ray and Oliver Peach).

"All 10 guys came in and fought. They pushed the ball, we pushed each other, and we picked each other up. That's what I liked to see. We're playing team ball," he said.

Tuscola has the rest of the week off but hosts the Owen Warhorses next Tuesday, Nov. 29, in the final game of a three-game homestand.

Owen is 1-1, with a 78-69 loss to East Rutherford and a 63-62 victory over McDowell.

Smith said the goal before facing Owen is simple: "Keep getting better."