King’s Wins Opener Of Monarch Classic
WILKES-BARRE — They have battled injuries and dealt with the inexperience of having a young team that is trying to figure out what playing college basketball is all about. Combine the two and it is easy to see the growing pains King’s men’s basketball has dealt with in the early part of the year.
But with healthy bodies finally returning to the lineup and the team showing signs of understanding what playing defense is all about, the Monarchs took a nice step forward on Saturday night in the opening round of the FNCB Bank Monarch Classic.
King’s placed five players in double figures and led wire-to-wire in a 68-52 victory over Hartwick. The Monarchs will play for the tournament championship against Susquehanna at 3 at the Scandlon Gymnasium. Susquehanna advanced with a 73-68 win over Gwynedd Mercy. Hartwick will play Gwynedd Mercy in the consolation game at 1.
“We are just young, we have one senior on the team and we started the year with key injuries to people who are starting and playing,” King’s coach J.P. Andrejko said. “That put us back. The biggest chance has been the defense and understanding the defensive concept. Early in the year we weren’t getting stops. Now I think they are starting to understand what we want to do on the defensive end of the floor. In my opinion, the offense will always come.”
Now 2-7 on the season, Andrejko got a nice glimpse of the tide changing on the defensive end of the floor. The Monarchs created 18 turnovers and scored 20 points off of them. That helped King’s open up a 12-point lead in the first half. Noah Tanner led the defensive charge with five steals, while Josh Bailey and Tyler Millan each had three.
“Maybe for the first time all year, the defense was helping create some offense,” Andrejko said. “It was not a press, it was just solid half court man defense. They did a great job. That was the biggest improvement we have seen so far.”
The Monarchs led by 12 at the half when Andrew Hudak scored 10 of his 12 points. Not only were the Monarchs creating points off of turnovers, they were also controlling the boards on both ends of the floor. King’s held a 46-37 advantage on the glass, with 15 of them coming on the offensive end. The Monarchs were able to score 18 points off second-chance opportunities. But more importantly, they were limiting Hartwick’s chances of scoring off missed shots.
“We knew we had to pressure the perimeter and we talked about long shots and long rebounds,” Andrejko said. “Our guards were staying home, and we weren’t giving up second and third opportunities. If you do that against Hartwick, that is where they will hurt you. We were able to limit them to one and get the ball out and go.”
King’s led by as many as 24 points with 14:33 left in the game, but Hartwick made its push. Behind an 18-4 run, Hartwick cut the lead to 10 with 8:45 left to play. But after a timeout, Millan, who finished with a team-high 16 points, made a pair of free throws, Tanner followed with a foul shot and a layup off a steal to get the lead back up to 13.
“Hartwick made a nice run and we took the timeout and settled down,” Andrejko said. “I thought they handled the lead well and they handled the run well. Hopefully this can be a springboard for the rest of the season.”
Haskell 1 3-8 5, Carruthers 5 0-0 10, Hanley 0 0-0 0, Kelly 4 4-4 14, Garey 2 0-0 4, Seward 0 0-0 0, Connors 4 0-0 11, Bradshaw 3 0-0 8. Totals: 19 7-12 52.
Pawliczak 2 2-2 6, Hudak 6 0-0 12, Tanner 4 2-5 10, Bailey 4 3-5 11, Millan 3 7-8 16, Glinsky 1 0-0 2, Lonardi 5 0-0 10, Hunter 0 1-2 1, Kalinowski 0 0-0 0. Totals: 25 15-22 68.
Halftime score: King’s 32, Hartwick 20
3-point goals: Kelly (2), Connors (3), Bradshaw (2), Millan (3).
Contact the writer:
@CVSteveBennett on Twitter