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Maconaquah holds off North Miami

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WORKHORSE: Maconaquah’s Bryce Ward (23) never left the court in the Braves’ season opener Friday night at North Miami, scoring a team-high 15 points in the 64-52 win over the Warriors.
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RESOURCE: North Miami’s Tristan Working (10) carried the hosts’ offense at times during Friday night’s TRC boys’ basketball game against Maconaquah, scoring all 10 second quarter points for the Warriors and posting a game-high 29 points in the 64-52 loss to the Braves.

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

Chance Hagan notched a three thirteen seconds into Friday night’s Miami County boys’ basketball tilt between Maconaquah and North Miami.

It was the first and only lead change of the game as the Braves led wire-to-wire over the host Warriors, eventually securing a 64-52 win.

For a season opener, Maconaquah head coach Tim Maiben said the players had a decent showing in several areas.

“We played good at moments and played bad moments, more up-and-down than we wanted it to be,” Maiben said. “The guys came out strong, made good decisions and took some good shots.

“We didn’t get as many defensive stops as we wanted. We did handle adversity because we could have crumbled late and it’s good experience for the guys to be able to handle the pressure coming up the floor.”

North Miami head coach Cliff Hawkins was pleased to see the team keep plugging away, never allowing the visitors to feel comfortable despite holding a double-digit lead most of the night.

“We want to give credit to Maconaquah for a hard-played game,” Hawkins said. “We did win the second half and our effort to win the game was evident.

“It’s important, when you’re working with a program, that the effort is there. We can work on things from this game but the game itself is part of the journey of what we’re trying to do.”

Maconaquah scored the first five points and grabbed a 13-3 lead six minutes into the game as North Miami struggled to get shots to drop from the field.

The Braves were foul prone in the opening few minutes, however, with the Warriors going 5-for-8 at the stripe.

Malachi Sanderson got the first basket for the hosts to cut the lead to 13-7 but threes from Cole Borden and Nolan Kelly, the latter at the horn, gave the visitors a 19-9 lead to take into the second quarter.

“It took some stress off of us to have a cushion at the start,” Maiben said after the opening quarter. “This was North Miami’s third game and third at home, so they were ready to play.

“We just needed to do a better job of building off the start and get defensive stops.”

The last time the lead would be in single digits for most of the game came after Tristan Working notched a free throw to make the score 21-12.

From there, Maconaquah went on a 9-0 to take its largest lead of the game at 30-12 with baskets from Bryce Ward, Nolan Kelly and Cody Koebler during the stretch.

Working hit a three in response, adding two more baskets to score all 10 North Miami points in the quarter.

“Working is (North Miami’s) catalyst and we had to key on him,” Maiben said about the junior. “They also have some decent shooters that can hit shots, so we worked on closing out, which the guys did a good job of.”

Ward closed the quarter a putback basket that pushed the lead to 36-19 at the break.

Despite struggling to get going in the second quarter, including a 1-for-7 stint at the free throw line in the period, Hawkins said the team wasn’t down on itself.

“We told them at halftime we could be down about being down or look at the positives,” Hawkins said. “We got (Maconaquah) in foul trouble and got to the free throw line.

“We’re going to fight for 32 minutes every game this year.”

North Miami scored six of the first eight points to start the second half getting the lead down to 38-25 before Hagan hit a three from the corner.

The game soon settled into a pattern of give-and-take where the Warriors would make a quick offensive surge, only for Maconaquah to get the points back.

The lead was cut to 10 at 43-33 following a four-point play from Greg Sonafrank only for Ward to answer with a three with 1:27 in the period.

Working closed the quarter with a three, leaving the hosts trailing 48-36.

Nate Musselman finally got the lead under double-digits for North Miami at 52-44 off a Braxton Beall steal but the hosts could not push any closer as Maconaquah worked the interior of the Warrior defense for multiple baskets from Borden and Ward.

Though the team never held the lead, Hawkins said North Miami’s second-half play made life difficult for the visitors.

“You have to win the effort battle when you’re trying to change a program,” Hawkins said. “That was no flukey effort; that’s the way these guys practice, that’s what we give and we’re proud of it.

“Certainly Mac got the ball in the right spots at times, especially breaking the press, but we also forced turnovers and got chances for layups.”

The Warriors have a quick turnaround for their next game, hitting the road for the first time Tuesday to face Culver.

Hawkins said the team did several nice things Friday but needed to be more concise on both ends of the floor.

“The offensive efficiency has to be better each possession,” Hawkins said. “We fly around and in that flying around, we need to get our rotations in our defense correct.

“We’d get on rotation down but miss the next or go to trap with everyone not on the same page. This system gets better with time, our coaches work with these guys to develop their skill and we’ll try to get better Tuesday night than we were tonight.”

Maconaquah will have a week to prepare for a potential marquee matchup with Wabash next Friday.

The Apaches scrapped past Whitko Friday 74-72, also moving to 1-0 in TRC play, and were one of the teams that Maiben had pinpointed as among the frontrunners for the conference title, leaving the game as a major marker for the league going forward.

“We know what we need to key on,” Maiben said. “Wabash is definitely the favorite in the conference but, playing at home, we can push them there.

“They have the size and skill to put it to teams so we need to have a good week of intense practices.”