BY CHAD DARE
Earning the top seed in the Vermilion County Tournament gave the Salt Fork boys a week off between games.
The Storm, who hadn’t played since a Jan. 8th win over the Oakwood Comets, used that extra time to work on things in practice.
Salt Fork focused on the defensive aspects of its game. That showed on Tuesday night as the Storm corralled the Georgetown-Ridge Farm Buffaloes 46-25 at the David S. Palmer Arena.
“We didn’t play real well on defense last week,’’ said Salt Fork junior Cole Taylor, who had a game-high three steals to go along with seven rebounds. “It was good to have the week off. It allowed us some practice time and to work on our defense.’’
And how did the Salt Fork coach feel about his team’s defensive game?
“I continued to tell the kids at halftime and after the game, how impressive our defense was tonight,’’ Salt Fork coach Andrew Johnson said. “We stuck to good defensive principles and I thought we rebounded the ball well.
“Anytime, you can keep a team at 30 percent, you are very happy with your defense.’’
Georgetown-Ridge Farm, which fell to 2-15, made just 11-of-37 shots (29.7 percent) and the Buffaloes didn’t score more than nine points in any quarter.
“Salt Fork is very good defensive team and that showed tonight,’’ Georgetown-Ridge Farm coach Adam Latoz said. “It’s no secret of what we want to do, teams key in on that and they are taking away the guys we want to go to offensively.’’
According to Taylor, the key against the Buffaloes is to take away their driving lanes.
“They don’t really shoot it well from the outside, they would rather take the ball to the basket,’’ he said. “So, we had to play their drive, take away their strengths and make them score from the outside.’’
Georgetown-Ridge Farm missed its first four shots from 3-point range and the Buffaloes were just 2-of-9 behind the arc in the contest.
“We’re not as good of a shooting team as we were last year and we changed our philosophy a little bit because of that,’’ Latoz said. “Right now, we don’t have the confidence to knock down those shots.’’
And while Georgetown-Ridge Farm was struggling with its offense, Salt Fork had a different player step up in each of the first three quarters.
Taylor scored six of his 13 points in the first eight minutes. Ross Learnard had eight of his game-high 15 in the second quarter. And Alec Dutton scored six of his 12 in the third quarter.
All three of them finished in double figures for the Storm, which improved to 16-2.
“We like to share the ball,’’ said Taylor, who was one of four Salt Fork players with two assists. “We like to spread our offense around — share the love.’’
And even thought it was Salt Fork’s first game in the spacious Palmer Arena, the Storm shot a very respectable 44 percent (19-of-43) from the field and they were 5-for-5 at the free-throw line.
“With this being our first time on the floor, I wanted them to stay patient,’’ Johnson said. “It’s a little different playing in the arena than at the high school gym.
“I thought they did a good job of settling into the game and the atmosphere.’’
Kyle Coburn was the leading scorer for the Buffaloes with eight to go along with six rebounds.
Taylor and Salt Fork’s Max Stutsman shared game-high honors in rebounds with seven each.
Salt Fork will play Oakwood for the Pool A championship on Thursday night at 6:30 p.m., while Georgetown-Ridge Farm is idle until Saturday’s fifth-place game against either Armstrong-Potomac or Hoopeston Area.