FREDERICKTOWN — The Fredericktown High School boys basketball team displayed a stingy defense against the visiting Danville Blue Devils on Friday night. The Freddies held Danville to just two points in each of the first and third quarters and won the Mid-Buckeye Conference contest, 46-34.
“I was really worried about our emotional level coming in — we had a hard-fought game at Centerburg on Tuesday where we came up a little short. Often times, it is hard to regroup and get your energy level up to where it needs to be and your concentration level where it should be, but our kids did that,” said Fredericktown coach Kirk Manns. “We came out strong and had a good first quarter. We were good defensively, holding them to one bucket, and we were able to sustain that.”
Both teams were sluggish coming out of the gate. Thomas Hinkle’s layin a minute and a half into the game put the Freddies on top, where they stayed all night. A layin by Robby Moreland evened things up a minute later, but Fredericktown closed the quarter with eight straight points, four each by Hinkle and Garrett Gatton.
“Garrett Gatton had a big part in the first half,” Manns said. “He made a few buckets, hit a couple foul shots and really got us going. Then Thomas kind of found his rhythm as well.”
Fredericktown extended the lead to 15-2 early in the second quarter, getting a free throw and layup by Tony Lybarger and another layup by C.J. Ruhl off a steal. Danville put together an 8-4 run, including a 3-pointer by Nick Stover, over the next three minutes to get the deficit back down to single digits, 19-10, but Justin Snyder drilled the first of his two 3-pointers to match it with 1:38 to go. Snyder hit another 3 with 20 seconds, which offset six free throws by the Blue Devils, and put Fredericktown ahead 25-16 at the break. Freshman Bryce Staats had seven points in the quarter for Danville, all from the free-throw line.
Wanting to get back some of its first quarter intensity, Manns challenged his team at halftime, and it immediately paid dividends in the third quarter. Hinkle scored three straight baskets — one off an assist from Ruhl and two off passes from Gatton — to open a 31-16 lead with just over a minute and half to go in the quarter. Another steal and layup by Ruhl on the Blue Devils’ next possession only added to Danville’s troubles.
“That’s what we are really trained to do,” said Hinkle of the team’s defense. “Coach Manns puts a real big emphasis on defense, and we know if we play good defense, we can score enough points to win.”
Weston Severns, who came into the game averaging over 16 points a game for Danville, hit his first bucket of the night — and Danville’s first of the quarter — with 54 seconds left, but two free throws by Snyder with 11 seconds left put the Freddies ahead, 35-18 after three.
“We came out in the third quarter and missed a couple of layups early, and it is the kind of thing that gave them a chance to get back in it, but I thought our guards did a very good job of getting up on them and being a little more physical,” said Manns. “They were not able to get the penetration that they got late in the first half.”
Hinkle opened the fourth quarter with a bucket and was fouled, but he missed the free throw and Danville quickly took advantage. The Blue Devils went on a 14-5 run, cutting the lead in almost half, 42-32, with 2:01 to play. Stover had eight points in the run and Severns added another pair of baskets.
“We knew we had to stay calm because we still had a pretty good lead,” Hinkle said. “We knew what we had to fix. We were rushing our shots, so we had to settle down and play strong defense because we were ahead.”
That was as close as it got, however. Hinkle scored another bucket and Jamison Shipley hit a key pair of free throws to cap the Freddies’ scoring. Severns scored a turnaround jumper with 11 seconds left to end the game.
“You’ve got to give our kids a lot of credit,” Manns said. “They do a very good job of following a defensive game plan, and they take a lot of pride in playing defense and rebounding the basketball.”
Hinkle had a game-high 19 points and five rebounds, two steals and two assists. Gatton had eight points, 10 rebounds, four assists and a block; Ruhl added four points, five steals and two assists; and Lybarger gad five points and two steals.
“I thought Tony Lybarger came off the bench and gave us some very good minutes,” Manns said. “He was very good defensively, and gave us a boost. Justin Snyder gave us a boost, hitting two 3s in the first half when they went to their zone. When we get that kind of production from guys on our bench, that is certainly going to make things a lot easier for us.”
Stover led Danville with 11 points before fouling out. Severns finished with 10 points, two steals and two blocks; and Staats had seven points. As a team, Danville went 11-of-12 from the free-throw line.
In reserve action, Fredericktown held off Danville for a 39-33 victory. Jordan Radel led all scorers with 12 points for the Freddies. Nathan Cubbage and Max Miller each added eight points. For Danville (3-7), Quinton Ferenbaugh had nine points. Ian Green scored six points, and Cody Inverso finished with five points.
Fredericktown will have a few days to savor the victory before hosting Mansfield Christian on Tuesday. Danville, meanwhile, will turnaround and travel to Liberty Union tonight.