CORTLAND - At Lakeview High School on Saturday night, the Bulldogs defense kept the Rockets grounded.
Playing Maplewood for the first time since the 2003-2004 season, Lakeview smothered the Rockets' offense en route to a 58-28 win. The Bulldogs hounded the Rockets all over the court, forcing 30 total turnovers.
"That's why I want them to play hard - it's a reflection on what I am," Lakeview coach Craig Mild said. "I believe in playing hard, and they did that tonight. I'm proud of them."
Lakeview's dominance started in the first quarter, where the Rockets (1-1) didn't score their first basket until five minutes into the game. Maplewood recorded nine turnovers before its first points.
Although the Bulldogs (1-0) held the Rockets to only six points in that first quarter, Lakeview's dominant performance came in the fourth and final quarter, with the team already pulling away.
Maplewood scored zero points in the final eight minutes, going 0 of 8 from the field and committing seven turnovers.
"In the final quarter, we played hard," Mild said. "We played team defense, and that's what we emphasize here. It's not a man-to-man, you-guard-your-guy defense It's a team approach.
"If we learn from that and build on that, that's what's going to be a successful program."
The Bulldogs employed a full-court press the entire game, playing physical basketball, and nobody embodied this play more than Brandon Bensing.
The senior forward used his strength to attack the middle of the Maplewood defense. He dribbled, backed down and spun his way to the basket, while also crashing the offensive glass.
This forced the Rockets to send Bensing to foul line, and despite his struggles from the line (3 of 11 on free throws), he wreaked havoc on the Rockets defense.
"In all my years playing basketball, I've been playing very physical," Bensing said. "It's just something I do. I love the contact."
Following a night in which the Rockets drained seven 3-pointers and recorded 68 points, Maplewood's offensive struggles left Maplewood coach Nathan Kish disappointed.
Along with a scoreless fourth quarter, Maplewood connected on only one 3-point attempt and shot 34 percent from the field. Despite playing the day before, Kish said that he wouldn't use the fatigue factor as an excuse for his team's poor shooting performance.
"Lakeview's a good team," Kish said. "They're big, they're strong and they're physical. You have to come ready to play. If you don't, it could be a long night, and that's what it was. For us, there weren't many positives."
As for the Bulldogs, they aren't used to winning much, Mild said, and he will be looking for his senior leadership to step up and try to turn the mentality around at Lakeview.
It seems that Bensing, one of the team's three seniors, is getting the message.
"It's a good step in the right direction," Bensing said. "We have Struthers on Tuesday, which is going to be a tough game, but we're going to keep on practicing hard and keep on getting ready for each opponent every Tuesday and Friday."