BELLEVILLE - Coming into Thursday night's game against visiting Carson Long, Belleville Mennonite was facing a size deficit and had to deal with a team with an up-tempo style offense to boot.
However, Belleville Mennonite's heart and willingness to not let the size or the speed pull them down proved to be all the Thunder needed as the locals picked up the 50-36 win.
Though the game was close for the first two quarters, the Thunder rolled through the second half by taking advantages of trips to the foul line to secure the victory.
Sentinel photo by MATT STRICKER
Belleville Mennonite’s Austin Byler (20) drives the baseline defended by Carson Long’s Chris Johnson (32) and Josh Kingsborough (23) Thursday in Belleville.
Belleville Mennonite went 18-for-27 from the line while Carson Long hit just 5-of-12 from the charity stripe.
Leading the way offensively for the Thunder was Noah Anders, who tossed in four triples and went 6-of-8 from the line for a game-high 20 points.
Teammate Austin Byler's effort was almost as impressive as he finished with 17 points and went an almost perfect 9-of-10 from the charity stripe.
Rounding out the double-digit scorers for Belleville Mennonite was Sam Morgan with 10. Morgan was also tough inside holding Carson Long's center Anfernee Brice to just six points, all of which came in the second half. Morgan also finished the night with a double-double, taking down over 10 rebounds.
"Our main focus coming out with a man defense was to keep them out of the paint. We wanted to prevent any penetration and I thought we did a nice job with that," Belleville Mennonite coach Larry Kauffman said. "I thought Austin Byler did a great job on their point guard making him work. We had a lot of guys that did a good job holding their position. I think our defense set the tone for the pace we wanted. It was fast enough that it wasn't up and down. It worked out well."
In the first quarter, Belleville Mennonite set the tone as its defense allowed only seven points and three of them came via a triple by Carson Long point guard Bryan Charles. Charles finished the contest with a team-high 11 points. Teammate John Kingsborough was the only other from his team to finish in double digits with 10.
Both teams went into the second stanza with seven. However, Carson Long found itself in deep foul trouble. The run and gun style of play and the penetration in the middle was blocked by the Thunder, which allowed only 21 points in the entire first half.
Though the shots weren't falling as Belleville Mennonite would have liked, it did enough scoring to take a 23-21 lead into the intermission.
From there the Thunder never trailed again.
In the third quarter, the Thunder boomed out to a 10-2 run thanks to six points from Byler and four points from Anders.
However, Carson Long finished the quarter with a run of its own and trailed by just seven going into the final stanza. But the night belonged to the Thunder and they weren't about to let this game slip away. In the final quarter, Belleville Mennonite jumped out to another 10-2 run en route to the 14-point victory.
In junior high action, Belleville Mennonite also notched the victory, 17-12.
Belleville Mennonite travels to Meadowbrook Christian on Monday.