WEST ALEXANDRIA — Rivalry night had a different vibe to it — until the ball was tossed in the air.
Typically, when Twin Valley South and Tri-County North get together for a boys basketball game, no matter the records, the atmosphere is electric.
But on this night, with COVID-19 restrictions in place, the crowd was limited and the gym had the feel of a scrimmage.
As soon as the game started, however, the intensity on the court made those in attendance realize that no matter the circumstances, the game is going to be hotly contested.
It was the hosting South Panthers who met the challenge and claimed a 65-50 win on Tuesday, Dec. 15.
South outscored North 24-13 in the second quarter to take control of the game.
South used a smothering full-court press to attempt the game into an up-tempo battle.
“We kind of changed our identity here. We kind of struggled to figure out who we were as a team and what we need to focus on and we totally flipped the script,” South coach Ryan Innis said after getting his first win as the Panthers head coach. “We’re going to pick you up full court, really turn the pressure on. Even the first two games, we struggled out of the gate to get going, so we changed our identity to that we’re going to pick up full court, get after you the whole game, and I thought we did an outstanding job and obviously made a lot of shots tonight.”
Innis said his team has enjoyed the switch to the uptempo style.
“Our group’s getting a lot more confident as we get going here and they’re thriving off the scramble in the trap and they love that style of play,” Innis said.
During the decisive second quarter, six players scored for South, led by senior Brayden Marker’s seven.
Marker finished with a game-high 17 points. Lucas Sievering added 12 and Michael Crews tossed in 10. Tyler Wright and Grant Ulrich each contributed eight.
The win was the first of the season for South.
“It’s kind of surreal here at the moment a little bit,” Innis said of the win. “It’s obviously my first victory and the way we started the year I didn’t know when that first one would come. So it feels good to get that monkey off our back, and obviously with the rival it’s pretty sweet.”
For North, the frustrating season continued.
“Out hustled, out wanted it, pretty much the gist of it,” North coach Joe Smith said. “We knew that they wanted to play fast and kind of sloppy. And that’s what they made us do. I mean, I couldn’t get my guys to listen. Again, we have the lead after the first quarter. Second quarter, I say slow down, make them play our style. And instead, we get into a flat out sprint, which we want to do. But against this team, we didn’t because we knew that they created enough turnovers on their own.”
North was led by Dylan Stinson and Logan Flory, who each scored 12 points. Brett Woodyard added nine and Copper Cole tossed in seven.
North and South are scheduled to return to action at the Preble Shawnee Holiday Tournament on Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 29-30.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 9379683-4061 of follow on Twitter @emowenjr