For The Independent
One ballhandler can break a press, but throw in another skilled player who can handle the ball, and even the best press can be exploited.
Newport Central Catholic’s Zack Pangallo and Michael Beuter demonstrated this to perfection on Saturday night, as they carved up the signature Tomcat full-court press in a 80-61 win to claim the championship of the 58th annual Ashland Invitational Tournament at James A. Anderson Gym.
The two not only broke the press with ease, but took advantage of the scoring opportunities that it presented as they racked up a combined 36 points.
Beuter, who accounted for 19 of those points, earned the Dr. Loren Ledford Most Valuable Player Award for his efforts in the tournament.
“They did a great job. Last year was just the opposite and we really struggled against the press,” NewCath coach Grant Brannen said. “This year we are really taking care of the ball. I don’t know if we are just a year more mature, but we sure did a good job tonight.”
Ashland coach Buddy Biggs said he didn’t want to press the talented duo, but knew he had no choice once his team fell behind.
“Coming into the game, we really didn’t want to press them as much as we did, but we got behind so far we felt that it was the only way of getting back in the game,” he said. “We really wanted to take away Beuter as much as possible, and we just didn’t do a good enough job of that. But give him credit, he was the MVP for a reason.”
It was Pangallo that helped key a crucial 12-0 second-quarter run by the Thoroughbreds that turned a five-point deficit into a seven-point advantage.
“We did that with (Beuter) on the bench. I said we are going to go with this lineup. We have guys who can step in anytime, and they know their roles. When they execute their roles to a T, we look pretty good,” Brannen said. “That was a big run for us. We hit some jump shots and Zach played really well during the stretch.”
Not only was NewCath hitting jumpers, but they were causing Ashland all sorts of problems on its offensive end, forcing the Tomcats into 15 first-half turnovers.
Ashland’s saving grace in the first 16 minutes was hot shooting from behind the arc, where they were 6 of 8 in the first half.
Logan Salow’s 3-pointer as time expired in the second period cut the Tomcat deficit to seven at 39-32, and gave Ashland some momentum.
“That was a big shot,” Biggs said. “It got their lead back under 10 and gave us a lift going into the locker room, but we just didn’t come back out to play.”
NewCath (11-0) outscored Ashland 22-11 in the third period, in which the Thoroughbred lead swelled to as many as 19 points.
“They blitzed us,” Biggs said. “I can’t put my finger on it, because we had done well coming out of halftime, but tonight we just did not answer the bell.”
Despite finishing 10 of 18 from the 3-point line, Biggs said his team just could not make enough shots to get back in the game.
“We just didn’t stick the ball in the basket as much as we needed to,” he said. “We shot great from the three, but we only had eight two-point field goals. You can’t beat a team like NewCath like that.”
The Tomcat (9-3) bench did its job of putting the ball in the basket, going an amazing 7 for 8 from long range, with the only miss coming inside the final minute. Salow led the way with three 3-pointers, while Tyler Stewart added two.
Nick Miller finished with a team-high 15 points for the Tomcats.
Drew McDonald tallied 19 points and five rebounds for NewCath.
Chase Kirk (Sheldon Clark), David Simmons (Henderson County), Zac Baxter (South Laurel), Zack Pangallo (NCC), Drew McDonald (NCC), Kyle Skaggs (Russell), Logan Salow (Ashland), Jake Shulte (NCC), Daulton Peters (West Jessamine), Lance Evans (Russell), Nick Miller (Ashland). MVP — Michael Beuter (NCC).