Maize stands tall in win over Derby
The first basket of Maize’s significant second-quarter scoring run against Derby on Tuesday night was the perfect representation of why the next 20-or-so minutes unfolded the way they did, with the Eagles running away with a 71-46 boys basketball victory.
Maize wasn’t trying to slow the pace by establishing its halfcourt offense in the first half because the Eagles figured that once Derby became resigned to its matchup problems, the Panthers would be left with one defensive option – the press.
When Connor Lungwitz finally followed coach Chris Davis’s nudging to post up, he scored over Derby’s undersized forwards to start a 17-2 Maize run. Turning to the press to offset its height deficiencies, Derby couldn’t contain the Eagles’ guards or keep up with their ball-movement.
An exhaustive search for Derby to find something that worked ended with Maize making 29 of 46 shots, including a stretch over three quarters in which the Eagles converted 19 of 20 two-point attempts, mostly uncontested layups on press breaks.
“I’ve been there – sometimes you just don’t have an answer,” Davis said. “That team (Derby) was third in (Class 6A) last year, and sometimes you just have games like that.”
Maize’s early possessions were hit-and-miss as the Eagles engaged Derby in a perimeter-shooting contest that Derby controlled through the opening minutes of the second quarter.
The Panthers built a 27-19 lead early in the second before Maize, behind Lungwitz’s basket in the paint and three three-pointers by Connor Eleeson, expedited a rally that saw the Eagles lead 36-29 at halftime. Those shots eliminated zone defense as a recourse for Derby’s deficiencies.
The three-pointers were a welcome bonus to the game Maize was attempting to organize. The Eagles handed the game to its guards in the second half, allowing their collective ball-handling ability to break the press to find layups for teammates or for themselves.
Maize made 8 of 11 shots in the second quarter and 9 of 11 in the third, a stretch that included 14 straight makes from inside the arc. Lungwitz led Maize with 16 points, joining Eleeson (13), Aaron Shaw (12), Jacob Horsch (10) and Ky-Sean Johnson (10) in double figures.
“We felt like we had a really big mismatch in the post,” Lungwitz said. “(Jeremy) Dunham had to guard Shaw because he’s a perimeter player. (Shaw) is more mobile, so we thought we had a mismatch.”
Lungwitz and Eleeson were key components in Maize winning six of its final eight games last year but only moderate contributors in this season’s first two games. Lungwitz found his comfort zone Tuesday, making all seven of his two-point shots with a versatile approach that includes an effective baseline jump shot.
Eleeson has embraced a reserve role after starting much of last season, and has made a smooth transition to becoming a high-energy player off the bench.
“He has started here, and he’s accepted a new role, and he’s getting more and more comfortable with that role,” Davis said. “We’ve got seven guys who can start for this basketball team. They’re so unselfish, to a fault, and they fulfill those roles.”
MAIZE: Horsch 10, Jobe 7, Johnson 10, Lungwitz 16, Wilcox 3, Shaw 12, Eleeson 13.
DERBY: Steadman 9, Conley 12, Dunham 13, Thompson 2, Beal 2, Mark 5, Wright 3.