FREDERICKTOWN — For the first three minutes Tuesday, things didn’t look good for the Fredericktown boys basketball team.
Johnstown scored the first six points of the game, but the host Freddies turned up the defensive intensity, especially in the second half, and went on to a 43-29 victory in a battle of two of the elite in the Mid-Buckeye Conference.
“This was a good win. You’ve got to give our kids a lot of credit. They played defense and really concentrated hard for 32 minutes tonight,” said Fredericktown coach Kirk Manns. “Johnstown is a very good basketball team with some very good players. Our kids deserve a lot of credit tonight. We had a considerable advantage on the boards again. They continue to get better, they continue to get tougher-minded defensively. I hope we can continue to do that.”
It didn’t look promising at first, as Fredericktown turned the ball over the first two times down the court, and didn’t even get a shot off for nearly three minutes. But senior post Thomas Hinkle took over, scoring seven straight points to help the Freddies (7-2 overall, 5-1 MBC) get back to within two. A last-second bucket by Garrett Gatton knotted the game at 11 at the end of the first quarter.
The Freddies put the defensive clamps on Johnstown (7-2, 5-1) to begin the second quarter, not allowing a point until nearly five minutes had expired. Johnnies’ senior Riley Cannon got into foul trouble and had to sit out a good portion of the period. But, once he returned, he scored two straight buckets to keep his Johnnies in the game. Cannon finished well below his season average, scoring just 10 points in the game.
“Cannon’s a load down there. When he got into foul trouble, that really hurt them,” Manns said. “We were able to throw three different guys at him, which helped, too. We were able to keep a fresh body on him for the most part. I thought that really wore him down, too.”
With their defensive intensity already at a high level, the Freddies were still able to find another gear in the second half, holding the Johnnies without a point for another 4 1/2 minute stretch to begin the third quarter. Hinkle made the Johnnies pay on the other end of the floor, as well, scoring eight of his game-high 22 points in the third quarter as Fredericktown took a 32-24 lead.
It didn’t get any better for the Johnnies in the fourth, as they scored just five points. Johnstown hit on just 4 of 24 shots from the field in the second half, including just 1 of 10 in the final period. They did not score in the final 5:52 of the game.
Meanwhile, the Freddies connected on 15 of 27 shots from the field for the game and hit on 13 of 15 shots from the charity stripe, including 11 of 12 in the second half.
“I was encouraged with our offensive execution. We’re starting to get a little better. I’m encouraged that the kids are continuing to get better defensively. If we can continue to work hard and our offensive execution continues to improve, we’ve got a chance to win a few more. We’ve got a long way to go, though, and a lot of improvement needs to happen,” Manns said.
Hinkle connected on 7 of 11 shots from the field and 8 of 9 from the free-throw line in picking up his 22 points.
“I thought he did a great job tonight. He was under control. He was not in a hurry, legs were under him and he had really good rhythm. And, our guys did a good job of getting him the basketball. That’s not easy when everyone knows it’s going to him,” Manns said.
Tyler Hathaway added seven points for the Freddies, while Ryan Logan had six points and four assists, and Gatton had four points and a team-high eight rebounds.
Johnstown was led by Cannon, who had 10 points and five rebounds. Shawn Block added six points.
The road doesn’t get any easier for the Freddies, as they travel to Loudonville on Friday night for another big MBC matchup.
Fredericktown also won the junior varsity game, 42-28.
Nash Cunningham scored 18 points to lead the Freddies. Max Miller added 14.
Johnstown was led by Harley O’Flaherty, who had 13 points.