BY JOHN DUBOIS
DANVILLE — The Schlarman Hilltoppers had a solid first half, but couldn’t overcome a cold-shooting second half in a 52-36 loss to the St Thomas More Sabers Friday at the Topper Classic.
“The first half we contained ourselves and played our tempo,” said Hilltoppers coach Pat Kelly. “They like to play a very frantic up the court style and try to make you play faster than you want to. We got into their pace in the second half and that isn’t a style we are suited to playing.”
The Sabres got out to a 6-2 lead before the Hilltoppers — led by baskets from Heath Goodwin, Nathan Liggett and Vinnie Miller — went on an 8-0 run to go up 10-6 and ended the first quarter up 10-9.
The second quarter would go back and forth before baskets by Goodwin and Liggett made the score 25-23. Matt Chamberlin would bank in a 3-pointer to send the Hilltoppers to the half up 28-23.
“Nathan is a starter and a slasher scorer type player for us,” Kelly said. “Heath (Goodwin) started out slowly as a freshman last year and still started half the season for us. He has some trouble tonight in making decisions with the basketball but he has a lot of talent and is only a sophomore. He will continue to progress and get better as the season goes along.”
Kelly was also pleased with his team’s defensive effort.
“The defense played very well in the first half,” Kelly said. “We did a good job contesting shots and making them shoot jump shots. We took charges and overall I was pleased.”
The Sabres took the lead at 31-30 with 4 minutes to go in the third and outscored the Hilltoppers 11-4 in the period to make the score 34-32. The Sabres remained hot in the fourth quarter opening with a 14-1 run, pushing their lead to 48-33. Goodwin would score on a free throw and put back of his own miss for three quick points to make the score 48-36 with 3:00 to go but the Hilltoppers were unable to score for the rest of the game.
“I’m a little disappointed in how the second half went because we were unable to maintain our pace and tempo,” Kelly said. “After three games, I’m for the most part happy about where we are.
“One of the good things about the Classic is you can get out and face some good teams and get an idea where you are and what you need to focus on in practice. We are a growing team that is making progress.”
Goodwin and Liggett each had 10 points.
The Hilltoppers (1-2) will play at 1 p.m. today against Paris and at 8 p.m. against Bismarck-Henning.