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Second half rally pushes North Miami past Culver

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

The way the first half of Tuesday night’s boys’ basketball game between North Miami and Culver had unfolded, it was going to take a dramatic turnaround for the hosts to even get back into the game, let alone win it.

Trailing 39-20 after 16 minutes of play, the Warriors nearly wiped out the deficit by the end of the third quarter, took the lead early in the fourth and a Malachi Sanderson three in the final 30 seconds helped the hosts take a 68-64 win over the Cavaliers.

North Miami assistant coach Braden Chandler was happy to see the players step up after a disappointing close to the first half.

“Anybody who saw us play at Maconaquah last week knows we didn’t share the ball very well or run the offense very well,” Chandler said. “We worked hard on that (Monday) but we didn’t look much better than we did against Maconaquah in the first half.

“We did feel like if we got our defense going, we could convert some of those plays into points, which we did. When we were in the half-court, we didn’t run the offense great, but we did much better than we did in the first half.”

Culver got off to a decent start in the opening half of the first quarter, holding an eight-point lead at 11-3 following five-straight points from Kia Riale.

North Miami scored the next seven off the back of a Nate Hill three, Darian Hanley putback and Sanderson putback off of a Hanley missed free throw.

The two teams traded off baskets to move the score to 15-14 but as the period went on, the Warriors began to rush their offensive play without reward, allowing the Cavaliers to take a 21-14 first quarter lead.

Drive after drive came up empty for North Miami in the second quarter and Culver punished the hosts time and time again on the offensive end, scoring the first 10 points of the quarter to hold a 30-14 lead.

Riale and RT Roberts were behind most of the Cavaliers’ success, combining for 13 points in the quarter while the Warriors scored a paltry six, helping the visitors to a 39-20 lead at the break.

Changes had to be made in the second half and the first thing to happen was a full-court press from North Miami, helping the Warriors to score the first six points of the quarter with one of them being a Tristan Working layup.

Having not sored in the first half, including one layup that circled the rim twice before rolling out, getting the first shot to drop opened the floodgates for the sophomore.

Working scored 15 points in the quarter, helping the hosts to cut the gap to nine at 45-36 with 3:26 to play in the period.

Chances were coming thick and fast as the Warrior defense flustered Culver into turnovers with several being forced by Hanley, Zane Briggs, Greg Sonafrank, Noah Goulette and Patrick Masters in the press.

When the Cavaliers made it to the half-court, Hill became a menace in the passing lanes, sparking several baskets with steals of passes that tried to split the center of the Warrior zone.

Chandler said there wasn’t a lot of talk at halftime about defensive pressure, more a reminder of to execute what the team had worked on in practice.

“We had talked about movement on defense and being in the right spots,” Chandler said. “Nate filled those spots and when he was there, he ran into passes quite often.”

North Miami closed the quarter trailing only 48-45 and erased the deficit in full when Sanderson knocked down his first three of the game to start the final frame.

Sanderson went one better on his next attempt, banking in a three that gave the Warriors their first lead of the game at 51-50 two minutes into the period.

Masters gave the hosts their biggest lead of the game twice, the first at 57-52 off a double putback chance and again at 61-56 with a jumper inside the final three minutes.

Culver was rattled by this point and the impeccable free throw shooting, which had seen the visitors at one point 10-for-10, deserted them down the stretch as the Cavaliers missed 7-of-11 chances in the fourth quarter.

The misses became more important in the closing stretch as Ethan Shuman finally found a hole in the North Miami defense and slowly pulled Culver back into the game.

The Warriors lead 63-59 inside the final two minute when Hill picked up his fifth foul, allowing Owen Valiquet to chip the lead down to 63-60 from the free throw line.

Briggs had a chance to extend the lead back to five but bobbled the ball after breaking the Cavalier press and put up a bad shot, allowing the visitors to come back down court and get a basket through Roberts.

Briggs committed his fifth foul shortly after but Roberts missed both free throws, only to be bailed out when Shuman got the offensive rebound off the second miss and scored to give Culver a 64-63 lead.

Working ran into trouble at the other end and Sanderson was nailed for a double dribble trying to recover the situation, giving the Cavaliers the ball back inside the final 30 seconds.

Sonafrank came up with a huge steal and the ball eventually found its way to Sanderson, who nailed his third triple of the game to give North Miami a 66-64 lead.

Riale was fouled but also missed both free throws with nine seconds left, requiring an immediate foul onto Working.

Working hit the first free throw, missed the second but got his own rebound, getting the ball to Sanderson who was fouled and knocked down a free throw to cement the comeback win for the Warriors.

Chandler said there were a few decisions that could have been made for the better but was pleased with the composure of the team in the final minutes.

“All things considered, we held our poise very well,” Chandler said. “There were a couple of shots that we told the guys could have been a few seconds later, though they assured me Malachi took all of his at the right time.”

North Miami travels to Pioneer Saturday with Chandler noting the team needed to continue to share the ball and defend well against a physical Panther team.

“(Pioneer) is coming off a short practice set because of their football success but we know they’ll be big and strong kids,” Chandler said. “We’re going to have to learn how to play some defense in the post between now and then and play better in the half-court because that’s where they’ll force us to play.”

At North Miami

Culver 21 18 9 16 — 64

North Miami 14 6 25 23 — 28

Scoring

Culver — Riale 21, Roberts 18, Shuman 10, Stevens 7, Valiquet 4, Ziaja 2, Keller 2

North Miami — Working 18, Briggs 13, Sanderson 12, Masters 12, Hill 7, Hanley 6, Goulette 0, Sonafrank 0, Wilson 0 

Next Game: North Miami (2-2, 0-1 TRC) travels to Pioneer (0-0) Saturday at 6 p.m.