SPORTS >> Owls silence Mustangs
Brandon Rooney enjoyed his wide-open outside looks while they lasted.
He needed to.
Once Abundant Life adjusted to start the second quarter, the only thing he saw was a swarm of white Owl jerseys.
The improved effort on defense helped Abundant Life beat Guy-Perkins 58-39 on Tuesday night at the Abundant Life gymnasium.
Rooney, the Mustangs’ scrappy point guard and leading defender, hit four three-pointers in the first quarter. But when the Owls (14-3) began to guard him more closely, he managed only one more point in the remaining three quarters.
“I’m familiar with Guy-Perkins, obviously,” Owls coach Tim Ballard said. “I’m familiar with their style, but I wasn’t familiar enough with their players other than their big guy that’s so good.
“So those guys got out and started stripping those threes early. I only had one name on my scouting report, so I didn’t know who to guard and who not to guard. Once my kids figured out who to guard and how to guard them, we settled down and made them work for some shots. We’ve been working on getting tougher, and Guy-Perkins is a good team to help toughen you up.”
Strong play off the bench for Abundant Life made things even tougher for Guy-Perkins (7-5). The nucleus of Owls starters had their typical solid performances, but reserves Tanner Cypret and Jacob Smith gave the Owls a depth advantage.
Cypret chipped in five points in the early going, and Smith battled for some impressive rebounds in the second half.
“Tanner Cypret, the last four or five games, he’s just played awesome,” Ballard said. “I feel like I could start him tomorrow. He was on third string when the season started, but I feel like I could start him now and not miss a beat.
“Same thing with Jacob Smith; he could easily be a starter. I’ve got nine right now that I know I could play, and that’s probably all I need, but I’m still searching for one more to make it an even 10 so I could rotate in and out.”
George Herring led Abundant Life with 23 points, including back-to-back three-pointers starting with 5:55 left in the third quarter for a 39-26 Owls’ lead. Senior post Garrett Southerland added to that with a move underneath the goal and a basket to extend the lead to 15.
Point guard Mike Stramiello closed out the quarter with a pair of driving shots inside to give Abundant Life a 47-29 lead heading into the fourth.
Owls guards Stramiello, Herring and Cameron Slayton gave up size to most of the Mustangs, but that did not deter them from out-rebounding against their bigger foes. The trio stepped up for key rebounds on both ends to deny Guy Perkins second chances.
“They do a great job and they work their hearts out,” Ballard said. “But I’ve tried to convince the guards I need them getting me five rebounds apiece each game to keep us in it.”
Rooney helped the Mustangs to an 11-5 lead to start. Stramiello netted a three-pointer with 4:19 left in the first quarter to close the gap to 11-8.
Rooney went back to work with another shot behind the three-point line, but Cypret closed out the quarter by converting a three-point play for Abundant Life to cut the deficit to 15-13.
Herring tied the game on a jumper with 6:19 left and Stramiello handed the lead to the Owls for good with a basket with 6:06 to go.
The Lady Owls had a 26-17 lead at halftime, but the Lady Mustangs charged back in the second half. Abundant Life had the ball at half court with 1.3 seconds left, but a three-point attempt fell short.