SULLY — The Braves of Montezuma (16-8) gave the Lynnville-Sully Hawks (19-2) all they could handle on Tuesday night. The Braves forced several turnovers with their 2-3 zone that perplexed the Hawks on a level they may have not anticipated. Montezuma executed their offense superbly and had the Hawks reeling.
The problem for the Braves is that was only the story of the first seven minutes. The next 25 belonged to the Hawks, whose suffocating defensive pressure and pinpoint outside shooting allowed them to run away with the game, 54-31.
As previously mentioned, the Hawks were flustered by Montezuma early on. Behind the Braves’ early run was a 2-3 zone defense that forced three consecutive turnovers in the first four Hawks possessions.
Add to that the inside presence that the Braves showed, blocking three shots in the first minute of the game. Lynnville-Sully trailed 14-5 early. L-S coach Nick Harthoorn called a timeout and righted the ship immediately.
“Well it started off a little rocky, but we were able to pick up the pace a little bit. Montezuma came out and really played well early,” Harthoorn said. “We had to do something to disrupt the flow of the game. So, we switched to the full-court pressure, and that seemed to create some good things for us.”
The Hawks came out in a full court pressure that terrorized the Braves. They forced several turnovers, and a 3-pointer at the first quarter buzzer by L-S freshman Connor Cullen brought the Hawks within two points, 14-12. Cullen really provided a huge boost on both ends from the moment he came into the game. He was the first Hawk to get the offense clicking.
“Connor is our sixth man off the bench. He comes in and plays really just as much as the starters,” Harthoorn said. “So, we look at him as really just another starter, and we expect him to come in and make plays for us”
Senior Nathan Russel hit another 3-pointer for the Hawks to put them up 15-14. The Braves knocked down a free throw to tie the game, and from then on, it was all Lynnville-Sully. The Hawks went on a 19-3 run to finish the second quarter, silencing the previously raucous visiting student section of Montezuma.
“We were able to extend our pressure, and I think that got us going defensively. The offense just came along with it,” Harthoorn said. “I was happy with the way the guys responded. Several guys stepped up and made plays when we needed them”
Leading the charge during that run were junior TJ Cunningham, whose 3-pointer prompted a Montezuma timeout just two minutes into the quarter. Coming out of that timeout, Russel drove baseline for an impressive layup and followed that up by draining a 3-pointer.
That forced yet another timeout called by Montezuma. Immediately following that timeout, senior Brady Van Wyk stole the inbounds pass and was fouled on his layup, and the rout was on. Cunningham hit yet another three late in the quarter, and it was 34-19 at halftime.
The Braves came out a bit too charged up in the second half, firing back to back airballs on open, long-range jumpers. Five minutes into the third quarter the score stood 43-19, meaning the Braves had only scored four points since the first quarter buzzer sounded. They rode that the rest of the way and will advance to the substate semifinal on Thursday.
Lynnville-Sully 54, Montezuma 31
L — 12 22 13 7—54
M —14 5 4 8—31
L—Russell 15, Cunningham 13, B. Van Wyk 9, Cullen 7, C. Van Wyk 6, Hofer 4
M—Gibson 13, Gregson 6, Wilhelm 4, Townsend 3, Lyons 3, Sutfin 2