North Canton: In the absence of one of its best players, Brunswick used the long ball and tough team defense to beat Firestone 57-48 in the Dunk 4 Diabetes Shootout at Walsh University Saturday afternoon.
Junior guard Ryan Badowski, who has missed the past three games with a hip flexor injury, sat on the bench and watched as his team worked to fill the void.
“When you’re playing without one of your best, you’re going to need everybody to do a little more,” Blue Devils coach Joe Mackey said, “and everyone stepped up and filled their role.”
After scoring the first basket of the game, the Blue Devils (8-8) fell behind after allowing an 8-0 run before calling a timeout.
Brunswick stayed alive in the first half by shooting — and shooting a lot.
The Blue Devils attempted 16 3-pointers in the first half, converting seven. At halftime, only three of their 10 field goals had come from inside the 3-point line.
After halftime, the offensive philosophy seemed to change as they attempted only six more 3-pointers, making two.
“I think we’re at our best when we’re balanced,” Mackey said, “but if they’re going to give us open looks, we’re gonna knock ‘em out.”
Senior guard Kyle Wheeler and junior guard Zach Parker were the main contributors from outside the arc.
Parker made four, all in the first half, and finished with 14 points. Wheeler made three, with two coming in the first half, and led all scorers with 25 points.
The second half became a more physical game, and it’s also when Brunswick began to take over.
“We tried to go inside-out a little more in the second half,” said Mackey.
“We got them in foul trouble which really helped us. We were in the bonus early in the second half so we tried to get the ball down low more.”
The Blue Devils shot 23 of their 24 free throws in the second half, with Wheeler getting to the line consistently and finishing 10-of-15. A more physical game on offense led to a more physical game on defense, as Falcons (9-7) standout Jerome Lane had difficulty generating any sort of rhythm in the second half against the tough Blue Devils approach.
“In the second half, we really made it a point to defend with more urgency and that was the difference in the game,” Mackey said.
The Falcons scored only seven points in the third quarter, as missed layups and free throws led to frustration, which resulted in poor shot selection.
Firestone shot only 31 percent from the floor, going 18-of-58. Lane finished 5-of-21.
“We’ve had a problem with the third quarter all year,” Firestone coach Dave Milo said.
“We just did not make the extra pass on offense. Some of that is Brunswick’s defense, but we were just cold.”
Senior forward Kevin Gladney led the Falcons with 23 points.
The Blue Devils have won three of their last four games to reach a .500 record overall.
“The competition we’ve played are only going to make us better,” Mackey said.
“When we play the schedule that we do, we know at some point it’s going to pay off for us.”
“If there was a poll for teams that are .500 at this stage in the season I think we’d be top five in the state. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.”