Maplewood dominates Grand Valley

MECCA – Following an eight-point first quarter, Maplewood needed a spark to beat Grand Valley’s 2-3 zone.

With six 3-point attempts and nothing to show for them, coach Nathan Kish saw that his offense had become stale against the Mustangs.

“We shot a lot of 3s,” Kish said. “They were open 3s. They weren’t bad shots – they just weren’t falling.

“One thing we didn’t do well was get the ball to the high post or the short corner, and try to get the ball inside. We didn’t penetrate. We were just kind of stagnate around the 3-point line and just shot 3s.”

With that method not working, the Rockets decided to use another tactic – just don’t let the opposing team set up in it.

Maplewood used transition baskets to rout the Mustangs, 74-44, in a Northeastern Athletic Conference, East Division matchup. Overall, the Rockets (6-4, 3-1) recorded 22 fast-break points.

“We haven’t been doing too much transition (up to this point), but we have been working on it in practice,” Maplewood’s Kevin Jones said. “It just helps us out a lot. That’s how we build our momentum, and that’s how we get up in those big leads.”

Although the Rockets didn’t employ any traps or full-court pressure, they managed to get 10 steals in the game, helping them get out for layups and quick buckets.

Sophomore Nate Spitler intercepted six passes in the first half, four which came in a three-minute span in the middle of the second quarter. These steals helped the Rockets open a nine-point lead going into halftime.

“It picked us all up intensity-wise,” Jones said. “It made us all recognize how hard we have to play to win this game.”

In the second half, everything fell apart for Grand Valley (1-6, 1-2).

Maplewood continued to beat the Mustangs down the floor, forcing Grand Valley coach Luke Strohm to abandon the zone entirely early in the third quarter, but that only seemed to make it easier for the Rockets to score. From the 4:40 to 1:03 marks in the third quarter, Maplewood went on a 15-4 run, taking the lead over 20 points.

The rout was officially on for Maplewood.

“In the second half, the wheels came off,” Strohm said. “It’s just one of those nights. We came out flat in that third quarter and didn’t do a very good job of getting back on transition defense. That translated in (the Rockets) pushing the score out a little bit.”

Following the win, Kish and Co. started to look forward to Youngstown Christian.

Despite rattling off big wins against Brookfield, John F. Kennedy and Grand Valley, the Rockets are taking Tuesday’s game seriously.

“It’s going to be a difficult task,” Jones said. “They’re a big, lengthy team – got 6-foot-8 guys, 6-foot-7 guys… We’ve just got to be quick and put on a bunch of ball pressure.”

Grand Valley returns to action at home against Mathews on Tuesday.