CANONSBURG – Canon-McMillan boys basketball coach Rick Bell wants to emphasize defense.
How, for instance, if you don’t care of your responsibilities on that side of the court, you’re probably not going to get the chance to score too many points on the offensive end.
Bell had to like this one.
The Big Macs shut down Burgettstown forward Ryan Glover, who had 22 points in the Blue Devils’ EQT Energy Classic opener, and used a stout defensive effort to secure a 56-28 win Saturday night and move into the championship game of their own tournament.
“Dating back to last year, one of the things that we were concerned about is that we have the tendency to struggle in the half-court offense,” Bell said. “So we know we have to defend, just to give ourselves a fighting chance.”
In two games, Canon-McMillan (2-0) has now allowed just 54 points after a 65-26 win over Blairsville on Friday night.
The Big Macs advance to tonight’s championship game and will play Wash High – a 64-54 winner over Pikeville in the other semifinal – tonight at 8.
One night after finishing with just four points, guard Brett Haney posted a team-high 20. D.J. Johnson, who had 17 against Blairsville, finished with 13 points off the bench.
Burgettstown (1-1) got six points apiece from Josh Mack and Jonathan Sabo. Glover was held without a field goal and made one of two free throws.
One thing Burgettstown coach Rich Tranquill pointed to was the Big Macs’ pressure up top, both in the half-court sets and when they went to a full-court press.
“They handled us up top,” Tranquill said. “They went in and out of a couple things, from their full court to man-to-man to zone presses. Defensively they have some kids who can lock some people down.”
Perhaps the most dominant defensive stretch for Canon-McMillan came in the second part of the second quarter and the first half of the third, a 10-minute, 52-second stretch where the Big Macs held Burgettstown without a made field goal.
That allowed the Big Macs to stretch an 18-point, halftime lead to 24 midway through the third.
Canon-Mac was never really threatened in this one and led, 17-4, after the first quarter behind seven points from Johnson, the final two coming on a sweet kiss off the glass.
Meanwhile, the Big Macs allowed a Josh Mack layup and two made free throws in the opening eight minutes. The Blue Devils made just three field goals total during the first half.
“If you play good defense, you give yourself a chance,” Bell said. “Now, I’m not one of those coaches who says, “Defense wins championships.’ You still have to put the ball in the basket. But if you at least defend, you have a chance.”
The Big Macs stretched their lead to 32-14 at halftime after a foul-filled second quarter that featured only five field goals.
Burgettstown pulled to within nine at 21-12 following two free throws from Robert Dupain, but Canon-McMillan scored 11 of the quarter’s final 13 points, with Bohn knocking down a pretty, pull-up jumper.
While Canon-McMillan will play Wash High, Burgettstown will play Pikeville today at 4 p.m. in the third-place game.