WEST LIBERTY – It was a joyous night for the community of West Liberty-Salem on Friday, as the Tigers welcomed back Logan Cole, the primary victim of last month’s school shooting, to the gym. The school also celebrated its Hall of Fame inductees and the squad defeated Mechanicsburg, 77-40, in OHC boys basketball.
“It was a pretty cool night … seeing some of the past here and what they mean to our school,” WL-S Coach Darrin Leichty said. “And then to see Logan over there … that’s just really cool. I know that meant a lot to the players and it kinda choked me up a little. Just that feeling in the building was good.”
Whatever was feeding the Tigers, it was all WL-S from the opening tip, as it appeared to be playing at a different speed for much of the game. The Indians turned the ball over too many times to expect a win – both against the press and in the half-court.
“We talked about handling their pressure. Teams are just able to do that too easily right now. Whenever we’re pressured, we don’t make the right choices or decisions with the ball,” Mechanicsburg Coach Tyler Craig said. “We get rushed into turning the ball over. And sometimes we don’t turn the ball over. Sometimes we just shoot too quick of a shot that leads to a long rebound and points for them at the other end.”
The first quarter saw Mechanicsburg hang around a little, but it finished down, 18-8. That pace basically continued to the half, as the Tigers led, 38-21.
Things got much worse for the visitors after the intermission, though, with WL-S (12-8) exploding for 23 points and holding the Indians to just two.
“That was big. We went to a little bit of a zone, and that bothered them. And then we went back to our man and we controlled the rebounding,” Leichty said. “We were able to convert some easy baskets.”
Craig was optimistic about the future with the Indians, pointing to the final quarter when his team went into an aggressive, up-tempo style.
“It’s something we’re trying to break down and prepare for what’s ahead for these guys,” he said. “Our numbers don’t equate to that right now – getting up and down. You need a bench. But that’s something we’re looking forward to.”
Even so, the final frame was an eight-minute march to the buzzer. While the Indians never stopped competing, the Tigers never were even remotely in danger of losing.
WL-S’s Tyler Louden finished with 18 points, despite not playing in the fourth quarter. The starters all joined him on the bench. Kannon Stillings scored 12 points and Trevor Burden had 10 in the win.
For the Indians (1-18), Chris Taylor had 11 points and Cam Atchison added 10.
In the jayvee game, WL-S won, 49-18. Eli McGill scored 9 points and Dominic Blair had 8 for the Tigers. Colin Hartley scored 9 points for the Indians.
On Tuesday, West Liberty-Salem hosts Urbana while Mechanicsburg hosts Graham.
Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1776) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller.