Trojans fall short of upsetting Milford

MILFORD — When Shawn Reardon nailed a 3-pointer with 3:15 left in the third quarter of a Vermilion Valley Conference game against Milford on Friday night, the Armstrong-Potomac boys basketball team had a clear pep in its step as it pulled within 36-31 of the Bearcats.

The Trojans, battling back from a 19-7 deficit at the end of the first quarter and a 27-18 margin at halftime, were running on “an emotional high,” said coach Sean O’Brien, after that bucket.

“We were feeling good,” A-P junior Cameron Colunga said. “When we go on a run, we’ve played with pretty much everybody other than Cissna Park and (St. Joseph-Ogden). We’ve played with pretty much everyone. Oakwood’s pretty much won the conference already — unless they lose to Salt Fork twice. We’ve pretty much played with everybody. It’s just we haven’t put it together for four quarters or stayed consistent.”

But Milford then went to its bread and butter, feeding 6-8 forward Jacob Thompson, who scored 10 of the Bearcats’ next 17 points during a 17-1 run from the three-minute mark of the third quarter to 4:35 of the fourth on the way to a 55-43 victory. That big run gave the Bearcats plenty of breathing room with a 21-point lead.

“We did some things well. We got down early and put ourselves in a hole and then fought back to get within striking distance. But they had that quick run in the third that hurt us,” O’Brien said. “I know we can play with them. We just have to make sure we shut down the bigs inside. Some of our rotations were off on defense, and they were getting some looks inside. That’s part of their offense. They work the ball around and get it inside, and they have two bigs who can finish when they get it in there.”

The Trojans (6-20) had their own post player to give the ball to in Dalton Loschen, who worked his way to a team-high 20 points, and Colunga finished with 12 points, all on 3-pointers.

But the Bearcats’ decisive advantage came on defense, deploying an aggressive 2-3 matchup zone, extending themselves all over the court and quickly filling passing lanes and making it difficult for dribblers to penetrate into the lane.

“They play a defense you don’t see very often, so our kids got caught looking at it. We didn’t attack nearly as much as we wanted to, but when we went inside-out we got some looks we wanted,” said O’Brien, whose team committed 18 turnovers. “We did pretty well (against the matchup zone). We worked on it quite a bit, about taking the space they give you, and it helps we played them earlier in the year and got to see it. But once again, there aren’t many teams that do it. We went over it to see how to attack the seams and look for each other. We wanted to be patient, but at times we weren’t as aggressive as we should’ve been.”

“We don’t see (the matchup zone) at all until we play them. It’s pretty rough. We just tried to cut through and took a bunch of deep threes,” Colunga said.

Colunga and fellow guard Kyler Stephens each nailed a three out of halftime to pull the Trojans within 29-24.

Loschen then converted a pair of buckets before Reardon’s trey got A-P as close as it would get the rest of the way.

Last Tuesday, A-P lost to Westville 71-51. The Trojans got 16 points from Loschen.

Contact Zack Carpenter at zcarpenter@rantoulpress.com and on Twitter @ZackCarpenter11.

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