The trip from Harrison, Michigan to Ottumwa, Iowa is a long one.
Not nearly as long as a trip down the court seemed to Mid-Michigan on Friday night at the Hellyer Student Life Center.
That’s because for 40 minutes, every pass, dribble and shot taken by a Mid-Michigan player came with an Indian Hills Warrior right in their face. Whether it was a hand in the passing lane or a pair of players trapping in the corner, the Lakers got no breathing room from the Warriors on Friday.
Fifth-ranked Indian Hills seemed like a team on a mission in the second game of the Reed Overhead Doors Classic. IHCC never trailed, and were never really challenged, in a 118-65 rout of Mid-Michigan that saw the Warriors enter the gymnasium with an extra sense of determination.
“Coach told us coming in we had a bullseye on our chest every single night. We’re the team to beat,” Warrior sophomore Trinson White said. “We came in here looking to impose a game plan.”
And what was that game plan? Pretty simple...
“We needed to get the big men the ball and take advantage of our height, but coach also told us that we needed to keep pressing them,” White said. “We put all our focus on making it difficult for them to bring the ball up the court. We focused on the press, kept our hands active and created a lot of turnovers.”
In fact, IHCC forced Mid-Michigan in 33 turnovers by the end of a long night for the Lakers. Several of those turnovers immediately turned into points as the Warriors broke things open early with a fast break that led to several easy baskets.
“It think everyone that got into the game played hard for as long as they were out there,” Indian Hills head coach Barret Peery said. “We forced turnovers. We had 29 offensive rebounds. I think we did a fantastic job in the hustle statistics. We’re going to win a lot of games when we win that.”
Besides forcing 17 more turnovers, IHCC took full advantage of their height by collecting 62 rebounds - 26 more then the Lakers. Jameel McKay and Ronnie Stevens each collected double-doubles in the victory with McKay earning 11 points and 11 rebounds in his eighth double-double effort.
Stevens, meanwhile, had 13 points and 10 rebounds one week after a successful opening night performance. Stevens scored 10 points and six boards against another undersized squad in Carl Sandburg.
“I always like to carry over and learn from past games what I need to do and how to take advantage of matchups,” Stevens said. “It definitely helped me in this game.”
What made the biggest difference for the Warriors, however, was a relentless full-court pressing defense. IHCC broke things open early on, forcing six turnovers in the opening minutes to open up a 16-6 lead on the Lakers.
Throughout the night, Mid-Michigan fought a losing battle trying to outrace IHCC to the other end of the floor. Many of the Lakers passes were touched by the Warriors, who trapped Mid-Michigan players in the backcourt, midcourt and kept trapping even when the Lakers brought the ball into the frontcourt.
“I think we communicated a lot more then we did last week,” Stevens said. “Our advantage is our size. It really helped us defend the passing lanes.”
Meanwhile, IHCC played a style of basketball on the offensive end that distributed the wealth. All 13 players that got into the game scored with seven players producing double-figure scoring efforts.
“I’m always happy to see everyone contribute,” Peery said. “Everyone works hard on this team and practices hard. It’s great to have a chance to play them. It’s a great reward for the hard work.”
The Warriors’ crisp ball movement led to 16 assists on IHCC’s first 20 field goals, which helped Indian Hills open up a 49-20 lead late in the first half. IHCC was hardly done, scoring 15 more points before the half was out to build a 64-25 lead that all but sealed the third win in as many games for No. 5 Indian Hills.
“If you look at the scorebook, everyone contributed in a good way for us,” White said after a 10-point effort of his own. “No one has 30 or 40 points. Everyone is pretty close in the scoring column. We look forward to playing together every night.”
Frank Williams led IHCC in their third win with 16 points and five assists. Mid-Michigan (0-1) did get a big night from Kendall Thomas, who scored a game-high 23 points including 18 in the second half before leaving with a leg injury.
The Lakers will take on Upper Iowa JV on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. in the warm-up to the main event of the Reed Overhead Doors Classic’s final night. No. 5 IHCC (3-0) figures to get a tougher challenge tonight against Paris Junior College at 7 p.m.
“They’ve got big bodies that will be very tough to deal with on the glass,” Peery said of Paris. “I think their depth is good and that scares me. They can definitely match us with their depth, so we’re going to have to work harder if we want to win.”
The trip from Harrison, Michigan to Ottumwa, Iowa is a long one.
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