Lions shut Barrino down, Minor steps in to lead Hornets to victory

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Submitted Photo Seniors Mitch Minor (21,Malvern) and Garrett Gonzalez (22, Minerva) battle for a rebound.

By Carol McIntire


When an opponent shuts down your team’s number one scorer early in the contest, what do you do?

If you’re Malvern Coach Dennis Tucci, you turn to the hot hand, who Tuesday night, was senior Mitch Minor.

The 6-5 wing player scored four points in the first half but dumped in 15 in the second half, to score a game-high 19 points as the Hornets posted a 49-33 win over Minerva.

The Lions came out playing aggressively and scored the first points of the contest, played in the Minerva gym, on Jayden Yerger’s first of three 3-point shots.

Malvern senior J’Allen Barrino, who has carried the team the team all season, got into foul trouble early in the first half. After scoring Malvern’s first two points of the game off an assist from Dylan Phillips. Rodney Smith turned a steal into a quick basket and the Hornets took the lead 4-3: a lead they maintained the remainder of the contest.

With his leading scorer on the bench, Tucci turned to his bench for support and was not disappointed. 

“I hate that he (J’Allen) was straddled with three fouls early in the game,” Tucci said after the win. “He only played seven minutes in the first half.”

Tucci, who picked up his 600th career coaching win recently, praised the effort of the remainder of his team. 

“I was so proud of the guys for keeping our first half lead with J’Allen on the bench.  Rodney (Smith) and Drake (Hutchison) really stepped up.”

Malvern’s pressure defense (full court press) kept the Lions off balance enough Malvern was able to build a 12-9 first quarter lead with five of those points off the fingers of Hutchison.

Smith worked his way inside and scored the first four points of the second quarter for Malvern. He added another goal from the inside to stretch the lead to 22-13 before a time out at the 2:27 mark. 

The guests went into the locker room at halftime with a 24-17 lead. 

“Even though our pressure hurt them in the first half, we felt it was better to start the third quarter in our 1-3-1 to protect J’Allen,” Tucci said. “Well, we stumbled onto a defense that stymied the Lions. They couldn’t find their rhythm, and we were able to extend the lead.”

Minor found his rhythm offensively in the third period while the Malvern defense held the Lions scoreless until the 2:13 mark of the quarter. Minor sank a foul shot, hit a jumper from the top of the key and sank another two foul shots as the lead grew to 33-17.

Malvern enjoyed a 37-22 lead after the third period. 

Minerva reached double figures in the fourth period (11 points) for the first time in the contest, but Malvern dumped in 12 to secure the win.  

“Mitchell had a fantastic second half,” Tucci stated.  “He worked hard to get good position inside, and we were able to find him. Dylan, Drake, Eric, Rodney and Evan (Debo) handled the ball well and were disruptive on defense. Mitchell and Jared really battled inside.” 

A big part of Malvern’s success came as they were able to keep the Lion’s leading scorer, Garrett Gonzalez, under control.  The 6-6 senior ended the night with three field goals and a foul shot for seven points.

“Jared (Witherow) was assigned to guard Gonzalez, and he did a fantastic job,” Tucci noted.

“J’Allen settled down in the 2nd half, and the guys were able to come up with a very important road win in this rivalry game. I would also like to give a “shout out” to our supportive fans. They came out and helped us out!” Tucci said of the large contingent of Hornet fans in attendance. 

Smith was the only other player to reach double figures in the game with 12 points. The winners did not land any 3-point shots while Yerger sank three for Minerva and Rowen Hoffee one. 

Malvern shot 45 from the field (19-42) while Minerva hit 34 percent (13-38). Fouls piled up on the hosts as they sent the visitors to the line for 15 shots. Malvern sank 11 or 73 percent. In comparison, Malvern committed 10 fouls, sending the Lions to the line for six shots. They sank three.

Minor grabbed nine rebounds as the Hornets enjoyed a 27-22 advantage on the board. Yerger pulled down five for Minerva. 

The unbeaten Hornets forced the Lions into 13 turnovers while committing eight themselves. 

The non-league loss dropped the Lions to 8-5 overall while the Hornets improved to 12-0.

Minerva won the junior varsity game 42-21.

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