STEUBENVILLE - Jay Morris was spot on when he said Big Red imposed its will on his debuting Buckeye Local basketball squad inside the Crimson Center Thursday.
Forcing 20 first-half Panther turnovers (14 came via steals) with their trapping defensive pressure, the hosts cruised to a 62-43 victory.
"We always say whichever team imposes its will on the other usually wins," Morris noted. "Tonight, Big Red imposed its will on us.
BUCKEYE LOCAL’S Tommy Hamilton (45) battles for a loose ball against Steubenville Thursday night.
"We talked about the fact that when these kids were sophomores (Buckeye Local starts four seniors and has eight on the roster) and we went 1-20, we didn't have that many turnovers in a half. We didn't expect that from our seniors."
Things actually looked pretty good for Buckeye Local early. Hoops by Caleb Agnew and Brennan Czuchran gave the Panthers a quick 4-0 lead. The walls, unfortunately, came tumbling down from there.
John Linn swished a triple then added a deuce to ignite an 11-0 Big Red run. Brandon Herring-Hill, Chris Smith and Tajuan Lawson accounted for the other six points. Mike Haney's crew, thanks to a Mylik Young bucket, was up 16-7 after the opening eight minutes.
The Panthers were guilty of nine ball-handling miscues during the opening stanza.
To its credit, Buckeye Local opened the second frame strong, scoring six straight. Big Red's defense went back to work, however, forcing 11 more turnovers. The result: Haney's cagers built a 31-15 halftime lead. Young had a huge quarter, scoring eight of his team-high 13 points.
"Defensively, it was a great first half," Haney said. "Offensively, it wasn't strong. We forced 20 turnovers but only scored 31 points. We were going down there, shooting some wild layups and throwing the ball away.
"On defense, we were playing fast and the intensity was there. We have to get smarter play offensively."
Big Red held a 43-26 advantage after three then outscored the Panthers 19-17 during the final stanza. The visitors ended with 30 turnovers while Big Red was credited with 20 steals, Linn getting six.
"We definitely want to trap when we can," Haney said of his defensive philosophy. "That means the other guys have to do a good job of rotating. We don't want to reach and foul. We want to trap the ball and let the other guys fly around."
In addition to his 13 points, Young, a 6-3 jumping jack senior, also led his team in rebounding with nine.
"He certainly gets up there quick," Haney said of Young. "He was able to get us some offensive rebounds tonight and a few put backs. He gets our fast break going with his rebounding work on the defensive end."
Periogn West added 12, eight coming in the fourth quarter. Lawson, who dished out five assists, had nine for Big Red, which hit 25 of 59 field goal attempts. The winners, however, were just eight of 17 from the charity stripe.
"We practice it," Haney noted. "We obviously have to concentrate when we practice it. We have to get better. In a close game, that can come back to bite you."
Czuchran led the Panthers in scoring with 15. Kyle Michalo added 10. As a team, Buckeye Local was 16 for 52 from the floor.
"The only good thing is we get to play tonight," Morris said. "So we don't have to think about it too long."
The Panthers visit Union Local today for their Buckeye 8 opener.
Big Red, 1-1, will return to the Crimson Center Tuesday when John Marshall visits.