Hornets head to Athens, regional tourney

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CCM/ Carol McIntire Hornet Drake Hutchison (12) drives to the basket against Purple Rider Turner Krol. Hutchison came off the bench to score a team-high 14 points in the win.

By Carol McIntire
Malvern Coach Dennis Tucci called his team’s latest district championship “a total team effort.”
“Everyone did their job on both offense and defense,” the seasoned coach said after his team knocked off Martins Ferry 61-50 March 8 in the Claymont gym in the Division III East District championship game. It was the seventh district title for the school.
“I am so proud of this team,” Tucci said. “The intensity they played with was incredible, especially in the second half.”
Malvern junior Rodney Smith scored the first four points of the game followed by a steal by J’Allen Barrino who dished the ball to teammate Mitch Minor inside for a shot he banked off the backboard and through the net.
The Purple Riders came charging back with a mid-range jump shot by Alex Reese, a 3-pointer off the hands of Anthony Booth and two foul shots by Reese to take a 7-6 lead at the 2:57 mark. Reese led all scorers on the night with 23 points, including a 10-for-10 performance at the foul line.
Minor then sent a high arching shot through the net for Malvern’s only 3-pointer of the game and a 9-7 lead. The teams were knotted at 11-11 as the second quarter got underway.
Barrino, the Hornets’ top scorer for the season, scored his first points of the game to open the second quarter. He ended the night with 13 points.
In a quick-paced defensive first half, the Hornets stripped the Purple Raiders of the ball on three consecutive second quarter possessions only to have Martins Ferry sink 3-point shots to keep the game close. Booth sank one of his three 3-points followed immediately by Smith sinking one from almost the same location. Booth accounted for three of his team’s five 3-pointers in the contest.
Steals on consecutive possessions by Malvern turned into layups by Dylan Phillips and Drake Hutchison and took a 21-19 lead at the 3:40 mark.
Martins Ferry held a 30-28 lead at halftime.
They just shot it better than we did in the first half,” Tucci noted, adding his team went back to a more basic defense in the second half and it worked.
The method worked as Tucci’s team held the visiting team to just 18 points in the second half – nine in the third and 11 in the fourth.
“That was crucial,” Tucci said referring to the defensive effort.
Malvern, meanwhile, put 18 points through the hoop in the third period and took a 46-39 lead into the final period.
As the frustration built for the Purple Riders, the Hornets continued to pull away. A double team on Barrino opened up another player, which the Hornets found time and again. Barrino, the Inter Valley Conference player of year found Minor inside with a quick bound pass for Malvern’s first points of the fourth. A Phillips steal and a quick lob pass to Hutchison, for a layup at the other end of the court sent the Malvern fans into a frenzy and gave the host team a 52-41 lead.
Barrino drove into the middle of the lane and, on the next possession, tapped in his own rebound for a 56-45 lead with just under three minutes left on the clock.
Trailing by 11, the Purple Raiders were forced to foul. Although Tucci’s team sank only eight of 11 foul shots in the game, they found the net when it counted, sinking five of six over the final two minutes to secure the win.
“It took all of us tonight,” Tucci said. “I’m so proud of all of them. All seven guys who played did their job on both ends of the floor. That is what helped us win.”
Junior Jared Witherow was a force to be reckoned with inside, pulling down 10 of his team’s 31 rebounds and scoring six points, all inside. Martins Ferry grabbed 25 rebounds and committed 18 turnovers compared to just six for the winners.
Hutchison came off the bench and scored a team-high 14 points. Smith ended the night with 10 points, Phillips added nine, Minor seven and Eric Swain chipped in two.

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