Two numbers told a big part of the story Thursday in Nashville’s surprisingly easy 48-28 victory at the Nashville Invitational Tournament.
In a game that featured two of the top seven Class 2A teams in the state according to the latest Associated Press rankings, the Hornets took advantage of Central missing its first 15 3-point tries and failing to get to the free-throw line all night.
Nashville senior Dylan Mueller heated up in the second quarter, scoring 10 of his game-high 21 points as the Hornets (18-2) — ranked third in the state — quickly put plenty of room between themselves and the seventh-ranked Cougars (15-4).
“We had that tough loss against T-town on Monday and ever since then we’re starting to come ready to play,” said Mueller, whose team lost 46-42 to the now second-ranked Wooden Shoes. “We’re just bringing our A-game now.”
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Two of defending tournament champion Central’s four losses have come against Nashville; the other was 47-38 Dec. 30 in the championship game of the Mater Dei Christmas Tournament.
This was only close for a little over a quarter, with the Hornets pulling away as if they were driving a Porsche.
“We look all right when the ball goes in the hole and it wasn’t going in the hole tonight,” said Central coach Jeremy Shubert, whose team was 4-of-28 (14 percent) from 3-point range and 12-of-45 (27 percent) overall. “We were afraid to attack. We just obviously weren’t ourselves.”
The teams played at a sluggish pace early and Central led 6-5 after the first quarter. Nashville’s leading scorer, junior Royce Newman, didn’t score until hitting two free throws with 6:07 remaining in the second quarter.
Newman didn’t know it at the time, but that helped the Hornets take off on a 26-5 run that pushed their lead to a whopping 33-10 late in the third quarter.
“We didn’t stick to the game plan at all,” Shubert said. “Both times we’ve played these guys I didn’t think we came out with enough energy. We got some looks, they didn’t go in and that’s going to happen at times — but we didn’t attack the basket.
“If my calculations are right, we didn’t shoot a free throw. You’ve got to attack the basket to shoot a free throw and we didn’t do that tonight.”
Central prides itself on tight defense, but without much size the Cougars also like to live a lot on their 3-point shooting. That proved highly detrimental Thursday as they fell behind and never recovered despite finally sinking four 3-pointers in the third quarter.
Junior Logan Kohrmann was Central’s top scorer with six points and Mitchel Rule had five. Newman added 12 for the Hornets.
When asked if he saw this type of lopsided score coming, Nashville coach Brad Weathers admitted he didn’t but wasn’t about to question the huge victory.
“Obviously they didn’t shoot the ball as well as they’re capable of, or have,” Weathers said. “I’d like to think we were part of that, but not all of that. That’s for sure, they had some open looks that didn’t go down that they usually hit.
“I think the last time we played they had 10 3’s and two 2’s,” Weathers said. “Obviously it’s a really, really good win for us.”
The Cougars have no time to feel sorry for themselves. They face bitter city rival Mater Dei on Friday in their next tournament clash.
“It’s the first time we’ve played them this year, we’re going to have to regroup (quickly),” Shubert said.
Mater Dei 58, Mascoutah 44: Mater Dei (13-7) trailed 12-4 and 19-12 early, but used a 15-0 run midway through the game to gain control and defeat Mascoutah as Ben Lampe led the way with 23 points. Lampe sank 10 of 12 shots and added three free throws in one of his top offensive outings this season.
Mater Dei senior Nolan Gerling added 17 points and Sam Toennies contributed seven. Mascoutah (6-14) couldn’t sustain its early offensive success, getting 11 points from Chris Simmons.