FARMINGDALE — The numbers tell the story of why, but not how, Hall-Dale beat Spruce Mountain, 58-40, in a meeting of two Mountain Valley Conference unbeatens on Wednesday night.

The Bulldogs shot 56 percent (22-for-39) from the floor and limited the Phoenix to just 3 3-pointers on 19 attempts for the game and six points in the fourth quarter to pull away from the top-ranked team in the Class B South Heal point standings.

What was even more impressive was how the Bulldogs worked together on both ends of the floor, using outstanding ball movement to get high-percentage shots and switching and rotating defensively to bother Spruce Mountain’s shooters, who made just 32 percent of their shots overall.

“We played them a lot this summer and it’s a little bit of a rivalry, we think,” Hall-Dale junior Ashtyn Abbott said. “It was a big game for us. We were really hyped.”

Abbott turned up the hype with 14 of his game-high 22 points (and eight rebounds) in the first half. Jett Boyer added 14 and Alec Byron added 13 for Hall-Dale (6-0).

Brett Frey led Spruce Mountain (7-1) with 12 points. Mason Shink was the second-leading scorer with five points.

“They were making easier shots,” Spruce Mountain coach Scott Bessey said. “I think in the first half we missed a ton of bunnies, a ton of open layups. We looked nervous. We looked tight, again.”

“I thought our ball movement was good but it started with our defense,” Hall-Dale coach Chris Ranslow said. “We played with great defensive intensity.”

Hall-Dale took a 15-11 lead at the end of the first quarter and took command in the second. The Bulldogs shot 14-for-20 in the first half, the Phoenix 10-for-27.

Spruce Mountain closed to within 20-19 on Shane Pelletier’s layup off a Kayle Stewart steal. But the Bulldogs were patient and unselfish on offense and found the paint with regularity.

Back-to-back hoops by Abbott, a three-point play and a hook shot, put them up 31-21, and they led 33-24 at intermission.

“We moved the ball quickly and broke their pressure,” Abbott said. “Moving the ball quickly, we were able to get those open looks, dump passes into the paint, drive in and dump… It was working all night for us.”

“We’re a good 3-point shooting team,” Ranslow said, “but we’re better when we don’t settle for the three. We really focus on getting paint touches. If it goes in and it comes back out, we’ll let it fly. But let’s make sure it goes in first before we let it fly. I thought we executed that pretty well tonight.”

Hall-Dale escalated the margin back into double digits early in the third with another inside hoop by Abbott and a nifty no-look, over-the-head pass from Owen Dupont to Boyer that led to a three-point play.

“We run 14 deep, and everybody gets to contribute on a nightly basis, and tonight was one of the prime examples of that,” Boyer said. 

The Phoenix briefly pulled to within single digits with a Frey trey and a Stewart layup off Shink’s steal that made it 40-32. But a Boyer free throw, Josh Nadeau layup and drive by Byron put the lead back in double digits for good at the end of the quarter, 45-34.

Byron and company limited Shink, one of the top shooters in the conference, to one field goal, a 3-pointer.

“Just close out on shooters and come out with your hands up,” Boyer said. “It’s just simple defensive techniques. Especially when you’ve got one of the best shooters in the conference. He’s obviously somebody that we’ve got to pin down and fortunately we did that tonight.”

“When you’re not making shots, it makes everything more difficult,” Bessey said. “We can’t change defenses at that point because you’re getting back in transition. I don’t know if we ever scored two straight possessions.”


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