Defense, or a lack thereof, was the difference for Robinson High School's boys' basketball team Tuesday night (Dec. 4).
The Maroons played a solid first half on both ends to build a 12-point lead over visiting Mt. Carmel, but then struggled to get the stops they needed in the second half en route to a 70-62 loss in the non-conference contest.
"We have to find the desire to guard for 32 minutes," RHS head coach Mack Thompson said. "We had it for about 16 tonight. Our goal is to hold teams to 50 points and below and we barely did that in the second half tonight. We have been working on defense a lot in practice, but apparently it's not enough."
Robinson started strong on both ends of the floor and led for nearly the entire first half. A three-pointer by Kade Lassen started the scoring for RHS, then a trio of three-point plays from Chance Black, Nick Weber and Brayden Childress turned an 8-8 tie into 17-8 lead and the Maroons held a 19-10 advantage at the end of the first period. The Maroons continued to play well in the second quarter, opening with a 10-2 run to build a 29-12 lead with 5:53 remaining and they would take a 36-24 lead into the locker room at halftime.
However, the second half was a different story, as the Maroons were outscored 46-26 over the final two periods.
Mt. Carmel chipped away at the RHS lead in the third quarter, pulling to within 43-42 with 3:34 to play. Robinson responded with four straight points from Black and a three-pointer by Childress as part of a 7-1 run to make the score 50-43 with 1:56 remaining and the Maroons still held a 52-48 edge heading into the fourth quarter.
However, Robinson went scoreless for the first three minutes of the final period, with Black finally ending the drought with a free throw at the 4:59 mark to make the score 53-51. Mt. Carmel would tie the game on the ensuing possession before a free throw by Childress put RHS back on top with 4:27 left. Mt. Carmel would take their first lead of the game, 55-54, on a layup by Austin Rager with 4:13 to go, but Black hit a free throw at the 3:49 mark to tie the game again. Rager and Childress exchanged layups, but Childress missed a free throw that would have given RHS the lead back with 2:42 to play. Rager would score again with 2:13 to play, putting Mt. Carmel on top to stay. Robinson was forced to foul and Mt. Carmel hit 11-12 free throws over the final 1:35 to seal the win.
"It comes down to fundamental basketball," Thompson said. "You have to make free throws, you have to play defense and you have to rebound. We gave up way too many second chance opportunities."
Robinson did make 9-26 three-pointers in the game (35 percent), while Mt. Carmel was just 2-15 (13 percent) from long distance, but the Golden Aces held a distinct advantage inside. Mt. Carmel hit 21-33 two-point shots (64 percent), while Robinson was just 9-23 inside the arc (39 percent). Mt. Carmel also held an edge at the free throw line, making 22-27 (81 percent), while Robinson hit 17-25 foul shots (68 percent). Mt. Carmel outrebounded Robinson as well, 37-27.
A contributing factor to the struggles on defense for the Maroons was the loss of Dylan Smith, who missed the second half with a knee injury.
"Dylan banged knees with someone in the first half and couldn't go in the second half," Thompson said. "We showed we need Dylan on the floor defensively."
Childress led RHS with 25 points, including six three-pointers, along with five rebounds, two steals, one assist and one blocked shot, while Black posted 23 points, six rebounds and one steal. Lassen totaled five points, five rebounds, three steals and three assists, Smith netted four points, three rebounds and one assist, Weber contributed three points and four rebounds and Caleb Trimble added two points, one rebound and one assist.
Rager led Mt. Carmel with 24 points, 20 of which came in the second half, along with 11 rebounds, two assists and one blocked shot, while Kaleb Applebey posted 15 points, 12 rebounds, one steal and one assist and Beau Stipp contributed 15 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Robinson did win the junior varsity game in double-overtime, 67-66.
Ely Parker scored with two seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 58-58, then tied the game at 63-63 with a basket in the closing seconds of the first overtime. Sawyer Hoalt made steal and hit a free throw with 11.6 seconds left in the second overtime to break a 66-66 tie, then Maverick Wright blocked Mt. Carmel's final shot attempt to seal the win.
Parker led RHS with 17 points, while Ethan Shidler netted 14, Weber tossed in 13 and Trimble added 12.