By Bonta Hill
Despite shooting 17 percent from the floor and only scoring 15 points in the first half, University High School head coach Randal Bessolo told his team at halftime to keep taking shots.
The visiting Red Devils responded, exploding for 55 second-half points to beat upset-minded Lick-Wilmerding 70-53 in Bay Counties League West play on Tuesday.
“I told the team at halftime that we can score a lot of points quickly, we just have to believe in what we do, and do it well,” Bessolo said. “That’s exactly what they did in the second half.”
Although standout seniors Noah Springwater and Zio Enriquez combined for 31 points, they both went through a poor shooting night, struggling to find their shot.
Picking up the slack was University senior Matt Schneider, as he sparked a 17-4 run to end the third frame with eight points to give the Devils a 46-45 edge entering the final eight minutes.
It was all Red Devils (20-5, 8-1) in the fourth quarter, as University opened the quarter on a 19-3 run to go up 65-48, crushing the Tigers’ hopes of delivering the seniors a victory in their final home game.
“It was just a matter of time before we got hot,” Schneider said. “It started on the defensive end, though, with the pressure on the ball and it translated into open shots on the offensive end.”
University’s full-court pressure defense forced the Tigers into 25 turnovers, turning the game into a track meet after Lick-Wilmerding controlled the first half.
For Lick (12-12, 3-5), it was a far cry from its first game against University on Jan. 21 at Oracle Arena, when it fell behind 23-0 in a 68-26 lopsided defeat.
The Tigers were clicking in the first half and built a 27-11 lead before going into the break leading 27-15.
“Holding them to 15 points at halftime and only being down one going into the fourth quarter, [the] credit goes to University, they’re just too good,” said Lick head coach Eliot Smith. “As a coach, I couldn’t be more proud of my team. We lost to them by 42 points, fell behind 23-0 [last game], and to be ahead at halftime says a lot about our school and our kids.”
All the momentum that the Tigers garnered in the first half slowly started creeping in the Red Devils’ direction in the third frame.
As Lick struggled to keep the tempo in its favor, University thrived with the fast pace, shaking off its ice-cold start, shooting 55 percent from the floor in the second half, sinking eight 3-pointers in the process.
With the playoffs a week away, Bessolo didn’t mind going through a contest like this, but hopes his team got the message that nobody is going to lay down against his club.
“This was an indication that we have a big target on our back. Lick came out and played a helluva first half, and had it going into the third quarter,” Bessolo said. “We just have to expect that we’re going to see great games from opposing teams. We have to play all 32 minutes in the playoffs.”
Zio Enriquez – 16
Noah Springwater – 15
Matt Schneider – 14
Chris Mah – 10
David Medoff – 9
Benjamin Faustine – 14
Kishan Jay – 12
Danny Baldocchi – 6
Benjamin Schneider – 6
Granger Tripp – 6