The first quarter told most of the story on Tuesday night, as the Long Beach Marines took down the host Mepham Pirates 58-45 in the Conference AA-III matchup.
The Marines jumped out to a 23-4 lead in just over a quarter of play behind the aggressive defense and the smooth shooting of Cedric Coad, who finished with seven first-quarter points and nine in total.
After Long Beach got into some foul trouble in the second quarter, the Pirates jumped back into the game with an 11-2 run, but a few quick Long Beach baskets put the Marines up by 14 at halftime.
“It was just [our] attitude coming out of the gate,” Mepham forward Chris Shevins said after the loss. “We didn’t have the right attitude setting the floor, we were scared. You have to play with confidence, something we lacked.”
Long Beach extended its lead in the third quarter behind strong play from Josh Trone, whose defense and eight points in the quarter led the way.
Mepham battled in the fourth quarter and outscored Long Beach 18-14, but the damage had already been done and the Pirates failed to pick up their first win of the year.
“We didn’t show up physically or mentally tonight,” Mepham head coach Richard Wojcieski said. “[We had] weak defense. Offensively when we did get a shot and we ran what we were supposed to we couldn’t put the ball in the basket and you can’t win a game like that.
Score: Long Beach 58, Mepham 45
Records: Long Beach 3-2 (3-4); Mepham 0-7.
Heroes: While the score didn’t work out in the Pirates’ favor, Mepham guard Kyle Wechsler led all scorers with 18 points. He also went 8-for-8 from the free-throw line.
On the other side of the ball was Coad and Trone, who combined for 26 points and hit a ton of big shots and helped the Marines establish a sizeable, early lead.
“It’s just us feeding off of each other’s energy,” Coad said of his team. “One guys hits, the other guy gets excited. One guy makes a defensive play, another guy makes an offensive play. We just feed off of each other.”
“We always say missing is contagious and hitting is contagious, so two guys hit, then three or four guys start hitting,” Burke added.
Turning Point: With Mepham trailing by nine and the game still within reach at the closing moments of the opening quarter, Coad got himself open nailed a three-pointer, which extended the Marine lead and led to more frustration among the Pirates.
“Ced can do a lot,” Long Beach head coach T.J. Burke said. “He can score on the side. He hit the three at the buzzer too, which helped. He’s improved his shot, but at 6-foot-3 he has to be able to shoot.”
Quotable: “We were just playing off of each other’s energy, that’s how we are,” Coad said. “We’re a big family. I love playing with these guys. When we get hyped, when we get to a hot start, it’s kind of hard to stop us.”
Bottom Line: After a tough loss to first-place Kennedy last Friday, the win puts Long Beach right in the thick of things in what has turned into a rather competitive Conference AA-III.
“Overall they were good,” Burke said of his team. “We tried to do a lot of subbing. We want everyone to play. At any time of the game they’re like a roller coaster, up and down, but defensively I’m always happy with them, especially in the press.”
The Pirates’ slow start ended up coming back to haunt them, as they missed a number of shots early and took themselves out of the game.
“Our starters couldn’t even compete with them tonight because we didn’t execute and if we did execute, we didn’t score,” Wojcieski said. “They’re physical and they’re aggressive. I don’t know if they have one stand-out player, but every one of them plays tough defense, beats you to the spot, crashes the board, and they had a couple of threes in the beginning that showed they could shoot the ball too.”
Mepham was without starters J.T. Elsasser and Jordan Gilroy, who were sidelined with injuries and are expected to make a big impact upon their return, which could be as early as Thursday.
“We’re missing J.T. Elsasser and Jordon Gilroy. I don’t know when they’re coming back but hopefully it’s quick,” Wojcieski said “… They’re great kids, great students and leaders in the school. It’s tough to replace one starter, never mind two, so hopefully we get them back soon.”
Key Stat: The Pirates hit just two field goals in the first 11 minutes.
Who’s Next? Jan. 14, Valley Steam Central @ Long Beach, 4:30 p.m.; Jan. 13, Carey @ Mepham, 4:30 p.m.
Box ScoreTeams 1 2 3 4 F Long Beach 16 15 13 14 58 Mepham 4 13 10 18 45 Long Beach Points Mepham Points Josh Trone 17 Kyle Wechsler 18 Cedric Coad 9 Chris Shevins 8 Farrell Gordon 8 Matt Morrow 5 Jaymeer Teemer 8 Cameron Brennick 3 Matt Rivera 6 Chris Brucato 3 Damon Whitfield 4 Bilaal Dar 3 Tariq Cole 2 Daniel Kaminsky 3 Jalen Merritt 2 Kareem Sultan 1 Kevin Rourke 2 Jeff Swanson 1