UTICA — After a frustrating first half, the visiting East Knox boys basketball team shifted gears and found a way to win. Down 22-10 midway through the third quarter, the Bulldogs turned up the defense and downed Utica, 37-30, in Tuesday non-league action.
At first, the Bulldogs (5-4) had a tough time getting the ball in the hoop — especially in the second quarter, when they only landed a single basket. In the meantime, the Redskins got first half 3-pointers by Owen Storts (three points), Elijah Larue (three points) and Zach Heckman (14 points) to go on top 15-10 at the half.
“(Utica’s) 2-3 zone was really giving us problems in the first quarter,” said East Knox coach Ryan Powell. “We really didn’t really make anything in the second quarter — a lot of turnovers.”
Along with a more aggressive defense in the second half, the Bulldogs had only three of their game total of 11 turnovers in the second half. Weston Melick, who dropped in a pair of 3-pointers in the opening half, scored nine unanswered points in less than a minute of the third quarter.
With 3:04 to go in the third quarter, Melick hit a bucket and followed with a foul shot. Twelve seconds later, he grabbed a steal, taking it all the way in for a layup, followed by another free throw. Melick landed another 3-pointer with 2:15 remaining in the third, cutting the Redskins’ lead to 22-19. Later, Melick tied the score at 22 with a putback on an offensive rebound. Melick finished the game with 22 points to lead all scorers.
“We just had to keep chipping away,” Melick said. “We had to find different ways to win. We decided to start driving it and trying to get open shots for everyone. Our defense picked it up in the second half.”
The Bulldogs held the Redskins to five points in the final quarter, while going 8-for-10 from the line down the stretch. Utica had 15 turnovers in the game.
Also, for the Redskins, Brock Phister had nine points. The Bulldogs also got seven points from Shane Knepp.
“We played really well for the first two-and-a-half quarters,” said Redskins’ coach Brian Radabaugh. “(East Knox) did a good job of clawing their way back. They made some plays in the second half and we didn’t.”
The Bulldogs will play at Highland on Friday, while Utica, now 4-9, hosts Newark Catholic. Both games start at 7 p.m.
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