SHARPSVILLE — They came ready to play with one thought in mind: Shut ‘em down, make their offense mission impossible.
To say Tri-Central’s boys basketball team was successful in throttling Hoosier Heartland Conference rival Carroll here Monday night was a total understatement. The Trojans set their sights on the Cougars’ big inside force, 6-foot-5 Jarin Bush, 6-5 Brandon Dillon and 6-3 Seth Eldridge, and it paid off in a convincing 46-31 victory.
The win upped the TC overall record to 6-8 and its HHC record to 3-1. Carroll dropped to 6-9 and 1-2.
The Trojans went at the Cougars in a very busy 2-3 zone, and the best the visitors could do was can 12 baskets in 42 attempts (.286) which included quarters of 4 of 12, 1 of 8, 4 of 11 and 3 of 10. Conversely, the Trojans got offensive help from all seven performers in chalking up periods of 5 of 12, 6 of 13, 3 of 8 and 6 of 11.
A pleased TC coach Kyle Zahn remarked afterward: “Carroll had a decided size advantage on us, so we wanted to take its inside game away and put pressure on the outside. Carroll came in the best 3-point shooting team in the area, so we wanted to take their shooters off rhythm, and I think our guys did a good job of that.”
Zahn noted TC’s Seth Blunck “had the best game of his career” with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
“He was all over the court and had his hands in everything and just had an overall outstanding game. But we also got good production from our bench,” pointing to the nine points of Colten Leininger and the eight points and six rebounds of Bryce Dowell.
“Holding Bush, Dillon and Eldridge to 24 points was great, but getting out on their outside shooters was the key. Another big thing is we outrebounded them [28-17],” he finished.
TC got off to a 5-0 lead, but Carroll went on a 9-0 run thanks to Dillon and Bush. But from that point on the Trojans put the squeeze on the Cougar offensive. The Trojans got big 3-pointers from Garrett Dick and Leininger to take a slim 13-11 lead at the first stop, but the game went the Trojans’ way in a hurry.
Blunck canned three shots in the second period and Dowell came off the bench for two buckets. Meanwhile, Carroll managed one lone basket in eight attempts in a three-point second quarter to fall behind by 26-14 at halftime.
TC’s offense slowed to seven points in the third segment, Leininger’s deuce and trey being the main force. Carroll’s Justin Willoughby got all five of his game points in the period and Carroll trailed, 33-24, entering the final period. The closest the Cougars got in the final eight minutes was 38-27.
The Cougars victimized themselves with 15 turnovers. In one stretch in the second quarter and tossed the ball away on five of seven possessions.
Dillon was the lone Cougar in double figures with 11.