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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Defenses take night off in USA win over BA

BAD AXE — Welcome to the wacky world of Greater Thumb West boys basketball, where a team which scores 29 points one night can come back three days later and score 80.
And still lose.
That’s exactly what happened to Bad Axe Monday night in a GTW contest against Unionville-Sebewaing Area. After a lackluster offensive effort last Friday, the Hatchets’ defense disappeared against the Patriots, who came away with a run-and-gun 91-80 victory in a makeup game from last week’s blizzard.
Bad Axe trailed by as many as 17 points early in the fourth quarter before it made a final charge. The Hatchets got to within five late, but saw USA get a couple of easy baskets down the stretch to seal its second straight win.
And while the Patriots were pleased with staying in the race in the compacted GTW, it’s the way they won that has the coaching staff scratching its head.
“We scored 91, but I don’t think we scored 91 the right way,” said USA coach Mark Gainforth. “That’s not our style of play. I give Bad Axe credit for dictating the tempo of the game. You see Bad Axe score 29 last week against Lakers and then come out and score 80 tonight. I don’t have an explanation for it. 
“Defensively, our intensity was lacking. We didn’t get to spots we needed to get to and we didn’t recognize their scorers.  It’s not like they shot exceptionally well. If they would have, it might have been 94-91 them.
“When you give up 80 points, something is not clicking.”
Meanwhile, as confusing as it was to the Patriots, it was somewhat satisfying for the Hatchets, who are probably out of title contention but proved they will be a worthy opponent down the stretch. 
“Right now, we’re trying to play for pride and respect,” said Bad Axe coach Jim Quinn. “And we know we’re not going to get that respect until we start winning some games. 
“This is the fourth game this season that we have been within five in the last two minutes of the game. So I think we’re on the doorstep.” 
The game was wild from the start, with each team stringing together big scoring runs. USA capitalized from the foul line when it needed to, converting 23-of-30 tosses, including 11-of-12 in the second quarter and 7-of-10 in the final period.
USA reached the double bonus in each half, thanks in part to Bad Axe’s style of play.
“It’s been a Bad Axe trait for a while that we don’t like to play physical,” Quinn explained. “So tonight, we got physical. You’re not going to go to the basket against us and just make a layup. We’re going to send you to the line and make you earn it.
“Tonight, USA made their free throws and they earned it.”
Nobody did it better for the Patriots than post player Jake Holland, who poured in a season-high 26 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter. Andrew Botello added 19 points, including four three-pointers, while Kyle Fletcher netted 14 and Sean McBrayer 11.
“If there were any bright spots or pluses it was the play of Jake,” Gainforth said. “He did a nice job for us.”
Added Quinn: “We did not have an answer for Holland. He hurt us.”
For Bad Axe, Ethan Sisco knocked in 23 points while Jesse Quinn tossed in 22 points and handed out 11 assists. Jeremy Pawlowski chipped in 14 points.
USA, now 7-5 overall, 3-3 GTW, goes out of conference to Bangor John Glenn on Wednesday before traveling to EPBP on Friday.
Bad Axe, 4-8 overall, 2-4 GTW, goes on the road the next two games — at Cass City on Wednesday and at Bay City All Saints on Friday.
“We’re probably out of the league race, but we still want to stick our noses in there and be a part of it,” Quinn said. “We have two big games this week against the league leaders, so we’re not going to give up.”
Bad Axe led 21-20 after one quarter, though USA rallied for a 46-41 halftime cushion. The Patriots led by as many as 15 in the third quarter, settling for a 68-58 edge heading to the final eight minutes.
USA extended the advantage to 17 1:30 into the final quarter before the Hatchets started to chip away. Three-pointers from Sisco and Pawlowski cut the deficit to 85-80 with 1:30 left. 
But the Patriots rattled off the game’s final six points, highlighted by hoops from Botello, Holland and Kyle Fletcher.
“Right now, we’re a .500 team, so any time you can get a win, it’s a plus,” Gainforth said.
Bad Axe’s Brandon Dean battles for a rebound with USA’s Jake Holland during the second half Monday night.

Bad Axe’s Jesse Quinn scores two of his 22 points for the Hatchets over USA’s Sean McBrayer (23) and Kyle Fletcher (20).

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