COBDEN — Pause, hit the reset button and start over.
That’s what the Massac County boys did after eating a couple of SIRR Ohio losses, and the Patriots appeared to regain some of their early-season form Tuesday night in a 75-58 non-conference win over a solid Cobden team.
Overcoming serious foul trouble and a big first half from Appleknockers star Noah Franklin, Massac County (14-3) went 12 of 18 from the 3-point line in the opening 16 minutes to establish a 48-29 halftime lead. Then it held off a decent run in the third quarter and played clockball to perfection in the fourth quarter.
“We needed to start playing well again,” said Patriots coach Joe Hosman. “We just have to start playing with some swagger, start playing the way we’re capable of playing. I think we had a pretty good, complete game.”
Julian Russell and reserve Tragen Keyes each scored 18 points for Massac County, going 8 for 11 on 3-pointers in the first half. Zach Travis added 16, including 3 of 4 shooting from the arc as the Patriots riddled Cobden’s zone.
Six-six junior Noah Franklin pumped in a game-high 22 points for the Appleknockers (13-6), sinking 12 of 15 free throws. Dylan Lewey added 19, 12 in the second half as Cobden carved a 19-point deficit down to 10, and 6-5 senior center Joe Brumleve hit for 11 points.
“I was proud of our guys for the way they competed,” said Appleknockers coach Wendell Wheeler. “You aren’t going to see too many teams like Massac County with the athletes they have. My gosh, they shot it well from 3, but we competed hard for 32 minutes.”
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The first half spotlighted a fascinating contrast in styles. Massac County came out hunting the 3-pointer and looking to pressure the ball, while the Appleknockers tried to exploit their size advantage with post-ups or the versatile Franklin slicing to the bucket.
Cobden scored the first seven points, but the Patriots responded with eight straight, forcing Wheeler to burn two timeouts in less than two minutes. The teams scored at will for the quarter’s remainder, which featured 13 fouls, a three-minute conference on a block-charge call and a 26-20 Massac County lead.
The game was basically decided in the second quarter, when Massac County kept connecting from 3 while speeding up the Appleknockers just enough to knock them out of rhythm. The Patriots rattled off 15 straight points in the period’s last four minutes, Jase Mizell canning a pair of free throws to cap the run with 3.2 seconds remaining.
“We were going on all cylinders in the first half,” Hosman said.
Cobden found answers in the third quarter, when Lewey started attacking the goal at will and Brumleve got going inside. It pulled within 58-48 in the last 90 seconds on a Brumleve layup, but a defensive mistake allowed JJ Sweatt to drive unfettered to the goal for an old-school 3-point play that helped restore a 61-50 Massac County advantage.
The Patriots closed out the game nicely, using a delay game to burn time and forcing the Appleknockers to use fouls. Travis, Russell, Keyes and Mizell combined to make 10 of 12 at the line to seal the outcome.
The result aside, Wheeler liked a lot of what he saw from Cobden, which leads the South Egyptian Conference with a road win over perennial power Meridian in its hip pocket.
“That’s one of the top teams in 2A in the state,” Wheeler said. “That’s why they’re on the schedule. Dylan Lewey had a great game for us, and we defended better in the second half.”