WILMINGTON — The top-ranked team in the Associated Press boys basketball poll certainly looked the part Saturday night at Fred Summers Court.
Moeller, which hasn’t lost since Wilmington ended its 2015-2016 season in the regional semifinals, dispatched the Hurricane 60-34.
The Crusaders, now 17-0 on the season, scored the game’s first eight points and never trailed throughout.
“They’re as good of a team as we’ve played in a while,” WHS head coach Michael Noszka said. “I know the Wayne team here a couple years ago was really good. Everybody can score, they can rebound it, they defend, they’re disciplined, they’ve got great length. They make it very difficult for you to score.
“They’re better than any team in southwest Ohio last year.”
Moeller hasn’t been defeated since losing 40-37 to Wilmington at Cintas Center March 9, 2016. In fact, that is the only game Moeller has lost in the last 357 days, going 24-1 during that stretch.
After trailing by as many as 16 in the second quarter, Wilmington started fighting its way back into the game.
A three by Alex Wright followed by a three-point play by Jeffery Mansfield pulled Wilmington within 10, 24-14. Wright would hit another three with 2:20 left in the first half to cut the deficit to seven.
Mansfield would follow with a steal, but would later turn it over on the same possession. Moeller would close the half on an 8-2 run over the final 1:36 to take a 32-19 lead into the break.
“We had a chance to cut it to five,” Noszka said. “We hit some shots, but then we made some dumb decisions. We had some guys open when we didn’t make an extra pass, and you have to do this against this team. They’re so good defensively because they can switch screens and not have mismatches.”
Moeller continued to surge to start the third, forcing turnovers on Wilmington’s first three possessions. This allowed the Crusaders to push the lead to 19, 39-21, with 6:19 left in the third. Wilmington wouldn’t threaten again.
Two key stats led to Moeller’s victory. The Crusaders forced 22 Wilmington turnovers, which turned into a 28-12 advantage in points off of turnovers.
“The turnovers are what’s killing us,” Noszka said. “We actually defended them very well in the halfcourt. That’s the biggest factor for us is taking care of the ball.”
Also, Moeller had 14 offensive rebounds to just five for Wilmington, leading to an 18-4 advantage in second-chance points.
Miles McBride led Moeller with 12 points, six assists and five steals. Moeller shot 47.9 percent (23 of 48) from the floor.
Mansfield had a solid game for Wilmington. He overcame several hard falls to the floor to lead all scorers with 17 points. Wilmington attempted just 33 shots compared to 48 for Moeller, and made just 11 (33.3 percent).
“The effort from our kids — I don’t fault it at all,” Noszka said. “We’ve been talking about three things lately — preparing, playing and performing. Our preparation is very good. We’ve got to play and perform a little bit better.
“The way Jeffery played tonight, we need that. We need contributions off the bench. We need some guys to step up and hit some shots.”
For Noszka and his team, it wraps up a tough weekend which included a loss to the top-ranked team in the state and a stunning road loss at East Clinton. Nevertheless, Noszka believes in what his team can still accomplish this season.
“I think tonight’s effort is good enough to beat the vast majority of teams on our schedule,” Noszka said. “We still have a lot of goals in front of us and we want to do well. We still believe in who we are.”
January 28, 2017
At Fred Summers Court
Moeller 60, Wilmington 34
(60) MOELLER (fg-3fg-ft-tp) McDowell 3-1-0-7, Payton 2-1-3-8, McBride 6-0-0-12, Voss 4-0-0-8, Canter 4-0-1-9, Garcia 1-0-1-3, White 0-0-2-2, Davenport 2-1-2-7, Marklay 1-0-0-2, Deyhle 0-0-2. TOTALS 23-3-11-60.
(34) WILMINGTON (fg-3fg-ft-tp) Smith 1-1-0-3, Beaugard 2-0-0-4, Mansfield 4-2-7-17, Wolary 1-0-0-2, Evans 1-0-0-2, Wright 2-2-0-6. TOTALS 11-5-7-34.
FIELD GOALS: M 23/48 (McBride 6/9, Voss 4/6, Canter 4/7); W 11/33 (Mansfield 4/8, Beaugard 2/8, Wright 2/4)
3 POINT FIELD GOALS: M 3/13; W 5/13 (Mansfield 2/4, Wright 2/2)
FREE THROWS: M 11/17 (Payton 3/3); W 7/9 (Mansfield 7/9)
REBOUNDS: M 31 (McDowell 6, Voss 6, Canter 4, Davenport 4); W 21 (Mansfield 4, Wolary 4, Smith 4)
ASSISTS: M 12 (McBride 6); W 8 (Beaugard 3, Gauche 2)
STEALS: M 13 (McBride 5); W 5 (Mansfield 3)
BLOCKED SHOTS: M 3; W 2
TURNOVERS: M 11; W 22
Matt Sexton covers high school sports for the News Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bymattsexton