JAY — Spruce Mountain shook off opening-night jitters and turned to its speed and agility to sidestep Mt. Abram’s bulky big men in a Mountain Valley Conference boys’ basketball opener Friday night.
The Roadrunners’ powerful assets dominated the boards, but the Phoenix’s defense was fast and furious, allowing Spruce Mountain to dismiss stubborn Mt. Abram 67-41 at the Phoenix Dome.
“We’re fast, we’re fast and we play pressure defense and we are deep,” Spruce Mountain coach Scott Bessey said. “We are going to play that way no matter what.
“They just happen to have great size, which I am a little envious of their size. We have one decent size kid and a bunch of 6-footers…If we ever outrebound a team, I will be surprised. We are always going to get outrebounded. You make it up with turnovers.”
Six 3-pointers helped Spruce ward off Mt. Abram, but the Phoenix’s shifty defense triggered turnovers and eventually wore out the Roadrunners.
But Bessey also understood it was the first game of the season and the Phoenix need to iron out the kinks.
“It was execution stuff that wasn’t the best that we’ll get better at,” Bessey said. “A lot of our trappings and our rotations, the back side of those were slow or didn’t exist at all and that’s timing.”
It was a neck-and-neck battle in the first quarter, with Spruce Mountain emerging with a shaky 20-14 lead. Mt. Abram’s 6-foot-4 Casey Holt and 6-foot-3 Dawson Bate wouldn’t budge underneath the basket. Mt. Abram’s ball handling was also impressive in the backcourt.
But when Spruce brought its defense up to speed, the Phoenix began to pull away, building a 42-22 lead by halftime.
Spruce guard Brett Frey dropped in the game-high 20 points and fellow guard Kayle Stewart wasn’t far behind Frey with 17 points. Andrew Shaw made his contribution of 10 points.
The Roadrunners’ freshman guard Nate Luce dropped in the team-high 11 points.
“We have some height this year; we had some height last year,” Mt. Abram coach Richard Hawkes said. “We had to adjust a little bit based on their speed.
“So I couldn’t play them (big men) both at the same time. I kind of adjusted based on that. I like their spirit. They never gave up. The kept fighting so…
“We handled the pressure fairly well. So I was happy with that. We just kept fighting.”
Spruce Mountain’s Jordan Dangle (12) drives to the basket as Mt. Abram’s Casey Holt (40) gets in his way during a Mountain Valley Conference basketball game at the Phoenix Dome in Jay on Friday night.Spruce Mountain’s Brett Frey (3) tries to drive past Mt. Abram’s Casey Holt (4) during a Mountain Valley Conference basketball game at the Phoenix Dome in Jay on Friday night.Spruce Mountain’s Jack Bryant (22) passes the ball under Dawson Bate to Brett Frey (3) during a Mountain Valley Conference basketball game at the Phoenix Dome in Jay on Friday night.