Longhorns overcome slow start in win

Published 9:59 pm Wednesday, February 4, 2009

MARION — After a sluggish first half, No. 2 seed Marengo Academy (16-7) bounced back for a 56-42 win over No. 7 Patrician Wednesday in the first round of the AISA Class AA West Region Tournament.

“We kind of lost focus a little bit,” head coach Danny Stenz said of the Longhorn start. “It seemed like we were a step slower.”

MA struggled from the field early as it watched Patrician clutch an 11-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.

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The Longhorn starters managed only five points in the game’s opening period. Sophomore Chase Smyly provided a spark off the bench, matching the starting group’s point total while grabbing three rebounds and blocking a shot.

“That’s something you’ve got to have off the bench,” Stenz said. “(Smyly) gave us a big boot that first half.”

The Marengo struggles continued in the second quarter as Patrician dropped in a trio of three-pointers to help stretch its lead to 27-19 at the half. PA, who had lost the previous three meetings to Marengo this season, clogged the post defensively, forcing the Longhorns to rely on outside shots that were not falling.

In the second half, the Longhorns finally found their rhythm by applying defensive pressure and working the ball into senior center John Carlton.

“He’s the leader of the whole bunch,” Stenz said of Carlton. “We told him at halftime he had to take over and he did.”

Carlton emerged from the locker room with intent in the third quarter, launching a personal 5-0 run midway through the period that cut the MA deficit to 29-26 and promptly forced a Patrician timeout.

With 1:36 to go in the third, Carlton worked his way inside, went up strong to the basket, absorbed the defensive contact, dropped in his shot and collected his foul. The senior dropped in his free throw moments later to tie the game 33.

Marengo continued its run when sophomore Matt Wallace converted a layup opportunity with 16 seconds remaining on third quarter clock, handing Marengo its first lead of the day.

“We’re going to jump in (our press defense) just about at all costs from here on out,” Stenz said of the defensive strategy that fueled the Longhorn comeback in the second half.

Marengo scarcely looked back after the Wallace bucket, embarking on a 21-9 fourth quarter run to sew up the game.

Carlton finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists to head the MA effort. The senior proved the go-to man in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 of his points in the period.

Senior Dustin McIntyre scored 10 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked five shots in the game.

“When Dustin is inside, they can’t hardly drive the lane,” Stenz said of McIntyre’s game-changing defensive presence. “Even if he doesn’t block shots, he alters shots.”

Marengo will return to Marion Military Institute Thursday to take on No. 3 seed Meadowview Christian.

“They’ll be a little more physical with us,” Stenz said of a Meadowview team that has taken two of the three meetings with Marengo this season. “If we can’t hit outside shots, it’s going to be a little tough on us.”

The fourth installment of the season series between Marengo and Meadowview is scheduled to tip off at 12:30 p.m. The winner of that game will advance to the region championship round Friday.

Marengo’s victory Wednesday guaranteed it a spot in next week’s AISA Class AA State Tournament in Montgomery.