NEW PARIS — National Trail’s long wait to open the 2020-21 season paid off with a 58-48 win over Carlisle in the Blazers’ season-opener on Saturday, Dec. 12.
The Blazers were originally set to begin their season in Twin Valley South’s Tip-Off Tournament on Nov. 27 and 28, but a team-wide quarantine postponed their start.
After being scheduled to play Miami East on Friday, Dec. 11, and then the subsequent cancellation of that game, Trail finally hit the court this past weekend.
“It’s tough,” Trail coach Mike Harrison said. “There’s a lot of teams going through it, so we can’t use that as an excuse, but it’s tough. Our last scrimmage was about four weeks ago. We missed about two and a half weeks of practice. So, I didn’t expect a pretty ballgame.”
Trail began the game on a 10-2 run, but the Indians battled back, scoring inside and adding a 3-point buzzer-beater at the end of the first quarter to eventually take an 18-16 lead early in the second quarter.
Carlisle threatened to increase its lead, but two 3-pointers from junior Wyatt House in the second quarter helped keep Trail within striking distance, down 29-26 at the half.
House would go on to lead the Blazers with 18 points, all coming from beyond the arc on six 3-pointers.
Senior Elijah Stewart started the second half off with a 3-pointer to tie things up, and a free throw from junior Cameron Harrison gave the Blazers a 31-30 lead.
Trail would only give up 5 points in the third quarter, leading 40-34 heading into the final quarter.
“We did what we needed to do defensively in the second half to make shots tough for them,” Coach Harrison said. “We cut down on our turnovers after a shaky first half and allowed us to get more good shots.”
Though National Trail was nearly a month removed from any scrimmages, they looked as fresh as anybody in the fourth quarter, outscoring Carlisle 18-14 to close out the 58-48 win.
“One of the things that we have to learn with this group as the season goes on is how to grind a little bit more and how to how to grit out wins when you’re not playing your best,” Coach Harrison said. “This is a good test for that because we weren’t gonna play our best, probably no matter what, and we certainly didn’t. We struggled in a lot of ways.”
Coach Harrison added that the important adjustments they made were cutting down on turnovers and limiting Carlisle’s offensive rebounds in the second half.
“The kids were able to make those adjustments and that kind of got us – we got that little bit of a lead and I think we just started getting more comfortable,” he said.
Cameron Harrison and senior Tyler Weathington both scored 13 points, followed by junior Michael Leal with 8 points and Stewart, who finished with 6 points.
“I told the boys before the game, ‘Every time out is a win just to get the play this year when you waited so long,’ but it sure is more fun when you’re successful,” Coach Harrison said.
National Trail is scheduled to return to the court for games this weekend; one at home against Twin Valley South on Friday, Dec. 11 (7:30 p.m. tip) and at Brookville on Saturday, Dec. 12 (7:15 p.m. tip).
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles