CATAWISSA RR — It’s that time of year again.
The time when Southern Columbia’s boys basketball team, after a few weeks of being behind other teams because of the Tigers’ annual march to the state championships in football, starts to get its sea legs.
Southern sent a big message to the rest of the Heartland Athletic Conference and District 4 Wednesday, breaking open a tight game to outscore Mount Carmel by 16 points in the second half on the way to handing the Red Tornadoes their first HAC Division III loss, 69-52, in the nightcap of the ThinkBIG Basketball Classic.
Julian Fleming produced a strong double-double with 27 points and 11 rebounds, and got strong backing performances from seniors Damien Ares (16 points, five rebounds, five steals) and Tobias Walden (14 points, seven rebounds, five assists. The Tigers improved to 10-4 overall and 7-1 in the division, and Mount Carmel dropped to 15-2 overall and 6-1 in the division. The Red Tornadoes won a December matchup between the teams.
“Those guys are the big three,” said Southern first-year head coach Pete Long. “But I thought we got some big contributions from the other guys, too. I thought our matchup zone was very effective in the second half. We talked about getting back and stopping their transition game. They really like to get up and down because they know each other so well.”
That stepped-up pressure resulted in Mount Carmel, which shot just over 50 percent in the first half (9-for-17), shooting just over 30 percent in the second half (9-for-29).
“We couldn’t get a roll when we needed it,” said Mount Carmel head coach John Lazicki. “Tommy (Reisinger) and Mike (Balichik) had tough nights. They usually get some rolls on some of their shots and they didn’t get any tonight.”
Reisinger had six points on 3-for-7 shooting, and Balichik five points on 2-for-13 shooting, with a lot of in-and-outers.
“Frustration kicked in a bit in the second half,” Lazicki said. “They played well and shot well. They’re one of the most athletic teams in the Heartland.”
“The big thing tonight was that we played well as a team,” said Fleming. “Coach really planned this game out and we followed it. In the second half we just wanted to kick the ball inside and if they shut that off, get it back outside.”
Southern led 29-28 at halftime, then opened the second half with a 12-4 spurt and gradually built the lead to 12 points after three quarters.
“When we execute, we’re tough,” Long said. “When we don’t, like against Central Columbia, not so much.”
Donovan James scored 23 points, with four assists and five steals, for the Red Tornadoes, but Reisinger’s six points were the next highest. Reisinger had nine rebounds.