CORNING — Corning coach Pete Nett didn’t like what he saw early in Monday’s Class 1A District 12 opener against Orient-Macksburg.
Both teams came in at 1-20 for the season, looking to add something positive to the season with a postseason victory. Nett felt a more up-tempo brand of basketball would benefit his team’s chances.
“After watching the first possession, where they kept the ball for basically a minute and a half, I wanted the game to go faster,” Nett said.
Corning went to fullcourt pressure, sometimes man-to-man, and sometimes a zone alignment that had 6-2 jumping jack Nick Spring directly in front of the inbounds passer.
Trailing 9-8, Corning went on an 8-0 run fueled by a flurry of O-M turnovers against the defensive pressure — including a steal of the inbounds pass and layup by Spring — that put the hosts in front, 16-9.
Corning led 20-13 at halftime, and went on to defeat the Bulldogs, 47-28. Corning (2-20) now faces the task of playing at No. 8-ranked Murray (20-1) at 7 p.m. Thursday. O-M bows out at 1-21.
“We’ll worry tomorrow about what we will do against Murray,” Nett said in the postgame lockerroom. “For these guys, it was the last time they’ll wear these white Corning jerseys at home, and they were successful.”
Next year, Corning and Villisca will combine as the Southwest Valley Timberwolves, with a black, gray and teal color scheme. Decades of red, white and black-clad Red Raiders will be history.
But for now, there is at least one game left. Nett said the pace of the game and his team’s depth were key factors.
“We got a couple of steals off the press,” Nett said. “We generally don’t press a lot. I told the guys before the game, our six through 10 (players) are probably stronger than their six through 10. I wanted to make sure those guys got in, and had an impact.”
Nett, in fact, subbed an entire new group of five during one stretch in the second half in an attempt to wear down the Bulldogs.
“That five-for-five was not an indication I was mad at the five on the floor,” Nett said. “I just wanted his five kids on the floor to know, we’re going to throw another five at you, and they’re going to pressure you the same way. It gave our first five a breath, and the reserves some extra time on the floor, which they deserve for their hard work.”
O-M coach Drew Dornack had scouted Corning last week against East Union. Corning scoring leader Keegan Longabaugh went down early in that game with an ankle injury, and Corning’s defensive strategy differed from Monday’s approach.
“We watched them against East Union and they were in a 2-3 zone all night,” Dornack said. “I thought we would be able to attack that. I really didn’t expect them to come out playing man-to-man. When he went to the press and turned up the pressure, we had guys kind of let it get to them a little bit. A couple of quick turnovers and they capitalized, and we were chasing those points from then on.”
Longabaugh made his first appearance since the injury, and helped the Red Raiders stay in front in the first half with 4-of-4 free throw shooting. For the game, he was 11-16 at the line in scoring a game-high 15 points.
“Longabaugh draws fouls like no other,” Nett said. “He led the conference in free throws attempted. He shot wonderfully tonight.”
Longabaugh had a huge impact on the outcome with 11 rebounds and four assists.
Key factors inside for Corning were Spring, with 12 points, five steals and nine rebounds, and reserve Ryan Carlson with eight points. Spring had several steals in the first half to trigger the Red Raider transition attack.
“Nick is 6-2 or 6-3 and can jump out of the gym,” Nett said. “He is scratching the potential as far as what he could be. When he’s not tentative, he’s very effective, especially at the front of the press or the top of our 1-3-1.”
Sophomore Jordan Thompson led O-M with 13 points, including a 3-pointer and 6-8 shooting at the free throw line. Dornack loses seniors Jacob Caviness (seven points Monday) and reserve Tom Walter. The rest of his young squad returns.
Caviness and Thompson were the only returning regulars from Steve Tussey’s 8-14 Bulldog team last year.
“Hopefully we can come back in the summer and work hard, and see what next year brings,” Dornack said. “This year was about getting experience and getting better.”
ORIENT-MACKSBURG (28) — Jordan Thompson 3 6-8 13, Jacob Caviness 2 3-4 7, Chantz Davidson 3 0-0 6, Wyatt Hensley 1 0-1 2. Totals — 9 9-13 28. 3-point goals — 1 (Thompson 1). Team fouls — 18. Fouled out — None.
CORNING (47) — Keegan Longabaugh 2 11-16 15, Nick Spring 6 0-0 12, Ryan Carlson 4 0-0 8, Quinton Wilcoxson 3 1-3 7, Lance Swartz 2 0-0 5. Totals — 17 12-21 47. 3-point goals — 1 (Swartz 1). Rebounds — Longabaugh 11, Spring 9. Assists — Longabaugh 4. Steals — Spring 5, Lane Peterson 3. Turnovers — 14. Team fouls — 14. Fouled out — None.
O-M — 7 13 23 28
Corning — 8 20 32 47