McClain's Dalton Mischal takes a shot vs. Lynchburg-Clay, Tuesday at MHS. (HCP Photos/Stephen Forsha)
McClain's Dalton Mischal takes a shot vs. Lynchburg-Clay, Tuesday at MHS. (HCP Photos/Stephen Forsha)
GREENFIELD — The new era of McClain basketball continued to move forward on Tuesday night, as a second-quarter surge by the Tigers changed the entire complexion of the non-conference showdown with Highland County counterpart Lynchburg-Clay.

The Tigers went from leading by seven points after the first frame to exploding for a 28-point second quarter to eventually defend their home court by a 66-43 score en route to their third win in as many games this season.

In their first three games this season, the Tigers are averaging 56 points per game as they’ve also defeated East Clinton and Westfall. The three wins after three games in 2018 already matches the Tigers’ win total from a season ago.

McClain head coach Joe B. Stewart spoke to The Highland County Press following the game and said one word that described his team … “defense.”

“I felt like our defense determined the pace. Our defense kind of ruled the day for us. I thought our ball pressure was good, our help was good, got them out of the things that we feel like they practice on a daily basis,” Stewart said. “Once it became that, now we have a chance to play our game. I also felt a real key was our unselfishness against the zone. Their Plan A was 2-3 zone, their Plan B was 1-2-2, and we had a number of times where the patience of our guys, the execution of our guys, the unselfishness of our guys – we got layups against the defense that was designed to keep us out of there. We feel good about that.

“It was our balance. It was one of those games where you feel like every strength we have – Dalton [Mischal] on the offensive board, taking it to the basket, giving the ball up, scoring a little bit – just a lot of factors came together for us, and when it does, we can be a pretty good basketball team.”

The defense of the Tigers was on point in the first half as they held the Mustangs to 17 points, while the offense of the Tigers was strong with 41 points in the first two quarters combined.

McClain scored their first points of the game when Devin Carter scored points off the glass on a put-back bucket. He later had two blocks on early LC drives to the hoop, then scored another two points off a jumper for a 4-0 lead with 5:20 still on the first-quarter clock.

The Tigers continued with their defensive pressure as Kobe Penwell stole the ball and went to the hoop off a steal with two fast-break points. Following a timeout by the Mustangs, Carter added two more points with a layup while being fouled.

Coach Stewart spoke about the fast-break play of the Tigers.

“We got some turnovers out front. We rebounded the ball and had some nice looks. We have depth in the perimeter position, so we’re pretty fresh and run the floor hard,” he said. “It’s a fun way to play, but your defense has got to do it for you first.”

The first continued with a bucket by LC’s Noah Miller, only to be answered with a 3-pointer by Penwell at the 3:14 mark for an 11-2 lead. The first frame eventually ended with four more points by the Mustangs and two more points for Carter, giving the Tigers a 13-6 advantage.

Carter finished with 22 points for the game, including eight in the first quarter.

“He’s worked for it,” Stewart said of Carter’s season thus far. “I have people around here telling me ‘Devin Carter as a sixth grader wasn’t the one you would look at and say hey, there’s going to be a heck of a basketball player.’ He loves the game, watches the game, has either hand around the basket. He’s just a player with a knack. He’s had quite a first three [games] for us.”

LC opened the second frame with a point from Ray Conner, but the Tigers went on a tear and changed the entire flow of the game as they had a run of 15 straight points to go from a 13-7 lead to 28-7 in a span of 2:55.

Following a layup by Conner, the Tigers scored the next nine points, which included a layup by Dalton Mischal, who then hit a 3-pointer from the corner at the 2:25 mark to push the McClain lead ahead to 35-9. Mischal scored 13 points in the second frame and finished the game with 18 points to his credit.

Next came a steal and layup by Bryson Badgley to add to the McClain lead. Eventually, the second frame came to a close with the Tigers in front by 24 points.

Lynchburg-Clay played a much better second half, but the deficit built in the first half, plus McClain scoring in double figures in both of the final two quarters, left the Tigers in a comfortable spot for the remainder of the game.

The Mustangs (0-2) outscored the Tigers, 16-12 in the third, and in the fourth quarter McClain won the final eight minutes, 13-10.

“The margin is what it is. A lot of that was caused by their defensive pressure and turnovers in the first half,” LC head coach Matt Carson said. “We challenged the team at halftime and said, ‘we can either fold right here or we can come out and try to do the best we can and kind of take the air out of them a little bit.’ I’m proud of my kids.

“The only thing I want to say is I’m proud of my kids. I’m proud about them hanging tough. I think we won the second half, but we’re going to be fine. I told them this is going to define our season, but it’s not going to be in a bad way, it’s going to be in a positive way. I’m excited to get back to work tomorrow and get these guys in there and get going.”

Points in the second half for the Tigers included baskets by Penwell, Carter, Patrick Fout (who sank a 3-pointer in the third quarter) and Mischal. Penwell finished with 14 points in the game.

“Kobe Penwell had an excellent summer. Kobe is a very, very coachable kid, and he reminds me of guards I had in Chillicothe,” Stewart said. “He has a teachable spirit. He’s all about ‘we.’ Because of that, I think Kobe’s kind of magnetic to his teammates with the energy he brings them.”

The Mustangs had three 3-pointers in the second half from Alex Barber, while also adding to the LC total in scoring during the final two quarters were Noah Miller, Conner and P.J. Fiscus.

Conner finished the game with 22 points, including eight points in the third frame. Barber finished with 11 points for the Mustangs.

Coach Carson spoke about the first two games of the season and moving forward from the two losses.

“We opened up with a physical Fayetteville team in a non-conference game over at their place, and McClain is very well-coached, played very good defense. We knew what we were getting into tonight,” Carson said. “We play a very talented Ripley team Friday as well as another county game with Hillsboro the next day.

“We’re going to get better. We’ll get better playing better competition. We’re just going to have to make sure we keep plugging away and keep doing the things necessary to keep moving forward.”

From the free-throw line, the Mustangs were 1-of-2, while the Tigers went 3-for-6.

The crowd of the Tigers on Tuesday night was full of energy.

“Great home crowd. It’s literally a dream come true for this guy,” Stewart said of coaching at his alma mater in his first home game. “I played the first game in here in 1975. I had my athletic director from back then from when I was in high school here, and I came in here with opposing teams always. For me to be here, and for our crowd to turn out as they consistently do, it just meant a lot.”

In JV play, the Mustangs defeated the Tigers 31-26. The leading scorer for the Mustangs was Chase Smaltz with 12 points, and McClain was led by Noah Reeves with 11 points.

Freshman game info was not available.

Next for the Mustangs is a home Southern Hills Athletic Conference game against the Ripley Blue Jays on Friday, Dec. 7.

The Tigers will next play in a Frontier Athletic Conference game on Friday, Dec. 7 when they host the Jackson Ironmen.