Titans top Grizzlies in Continental clash
Legend stays perfect in league play with win
There are myriad games remaining to be played this season but it's already been a memorable campaign for the Legend boys basketball team.
The Titans beat ThunderRidge.
Legend, playing without leading scorer Zach Mihalicz, edged the Grizzlies, 42-37, on Jan. 24 to notch it's first win over ThunderRidge since the Titans joined the Class 5A Continental League in the 2010-11 season.
“It was really satistfying since it was the first time we've beaten them and, two, we did it without Zach,” said Titans coach Kevin Boley. “We had to find a way without our leading scorer.
“ThunderRidge has made it really hard for us in the past. This game was no different. This was the first time we've beaten them in boys basketball. It's only the fourth time we've met but…”
During the first quarter of the Continental League game played at Legend's Coliseum neither team looked ready to win. The teams combined to shoot 2-for-24 from the field and scored only six points in a 3-3 deadlock after the first eight minutes.
“The reality is both teams were well prepared, both teams played exceptionally hard, both teams scouted the opponent and it was just one of those games where it was a grind,” explained Boley.
ThunderRidge coach Joe Ortiz added that the defensive play was pretty solid by both teams all night.
“I though it was pretty good defense on our end and I think Kevin probably thinks it was pretty good defense on his end too,” said Ortiz. “We were terrible at the free throw line. We missed a lot of easy shots.”
Shooting from the field improved for both teams over the course of the game as ThunderRidge finished by making 37.8 percent of its attempts and Legend shot 35 percent. The big difference was at the foul line where the Titans hit 15-of-21 and ThunderRidge went 7-of-16.
Legend built a 10-point advantage in the third quarter but ThunderRidge stormed back to tie the game a 32-all on a 3-point basket by Elias Tiedgen. The Grizzlies had a chance to go ahead but missed the front end of a one-and-one situation.
Legend's Ian Reiss-Hodges took a pass from Matt Toll, converted a layup and went to the line to complete a 3-point play, which gave the Titans a 35-32 lead with 1:49 to play. The victory was sealed when Legend cashed in on 7-of-8 free throws in the final 61 seconds.
“I just saw Toll driving to the basket really hard,” said Reiss-Hodges of his key 3-point play. “The first thing going through my head was go for the rebound because I thought he was going try to shoot it over him (6-foot-10 ThunderRidge center Zach Pirog). Then when he dumped it down to me, I had to take it up right away because I was right underneath (the basket).
“I saw the D coming at me on the weak side so I was trying to get contact with him to make it and get the one (free throw).”
Reiss-Hodges, a 5-11 senior finished with seven points. Toll had eight points while 6-4 senior Elijah Cherrington stepped up with a game-high 15 points for the Titans.
Pirog said he enjoyed not having to go against Mihalicz and the tall junior led the Grizzlies with 12 points. Mihalicz, a 6-foot-8 senior, injured his knee in practice but Boley hopes to have him back for the Feb. 1 game at Regis Jesuit.
“Curtis (Laborda) and Tony stepped up guarding him (Pirog),” said Reiss-Hodges. “He still scored a little bit but not as much as in previous games. They really helped us out down low.”
Legend, which faced Rock Canyon Jan. 28, improved to 11-4 overall and 3-0 in league play with the win over the Grizzlies. ThunderRidge slipped to 9-6 and 2-1.
“The win over ThunderRidge demonstrated how our sophomores (Riley Matticks, Danny Garrick and Monroe Porter) are maturing, we're starting to gain that experience and starting to make plays,” said Boley. “We've had maybe four, five or six games where in came down to taking care of the ball and making free throws and we hadn't been able to do that. Against ThunderRidge, our guys really stepped up, making plays and hitting free throws.
“I'm proud of the guys, they stepped up handled the ball and made free throws. We had nine turnovers the whole game. Our guards did a tremendous job handling the ball.”