Meadville Tribune

January 24, 2014

Hornets sting Bulldogs

By Frank Foreman
Meadville Tribune

HERMITAGE — Turnovers, sloppy ball handling and an inability to score with consistency doomed the Meadville boys basketball team Friday night, as the Bulldogs suffered a one-sided 69-46 Region 5 road loss to Hickory.

The Hornets used their size in the post to create open looks, and Hickory continually took advantage of the opportunities. Meadville struggled early and couldn’t buy a basket in the first quarter, allowing Hickory to methodically increase its lead. When halftime arrived, the Bulldogs were in daze, and way too far behind to threaten the Hornets in the second half.

“We turned the ball over a lot,” Meadville head coach Mark McElhinny said. “We didn’t have a lot of good looks offensively, and it was just a frustrating night.”

Frustrating indeed as Hickory jumped out to a 9-0 lead to start the game. Meadville’s Armoni Foster knocked down a 3-pointer with 3:10 left in the first quarter to give the Bulldogs their first basket of the contest. Jason Clune followed with a 3-pointer of his own to give Meadville some early life, trailing 11-6 entering the second quarter.

Offense was still hard to come by for the Bulldogs in the second frame as Hickory outscored Meadville 18-9 in the quarter. Not helping matters for Meadville was Hickory’s ability to work the ball into the post to Donte Green and Aaron Conley.

The two bigs didn’t light the world on fire on the score sheet, but their presence inside opened up the wings for a talented group of Hickory shooters. The Hornets’ Anthony Cannone, who was hot all night long, caused problems with his shot, as did Ross Passalinqua.

When the shooting barrage ended, the Hornets held a 29-15 halftime advantage, and left the Bulldogs looking for answers.

“Their bigs are tough,” McElhinny said. “They pass the ball well and they are strong inside. It forced us to play hard inside and out, and that’s difficult to do for 32 minutes.”

The Bulldogs failed to close the gap in the second half as each time Meadville got something cooking on offense, Hickory was there to answer. When Meadville would convert an old fashioned 3-point play, Hickory would knock down a triple to counter. The Bulldogs were simply spinning their tires all night long.

The low-point came at the end of the third quarter as Jacob Gregor turned the ball over with five seconds remaining in the quarter near midcourt. As the ball trickled away, only Hickory players went for the loose ball, which was gobbled up by Nardone. Fittingly, Nardone banked in a 3-pointer as the buzzer rang to give Hickory a 47-27 lead.

It was more of the same in the fourth as both teams emptied their benches down the stretch, allowing the Hornets to cruise to victory.

Foster was the only Bulldog in double figures, finishing with 16 points, including three 3-pointers. Cannone led Hickory with 19 points.

Meadville was without one of its key inside players in Shequon Lindsey, who was out of the lineup for non-injury reasons.

The Bulldogs, a young squad still trying to figure things out on the court, fell to 5-9 on the season, and 3-6 in Region 5 play. Hickory improved to 11-3 overall, 7-3 in the region.

“We thought coming into tonight that we could sneak a win in and be in a nice place for a playoff run,” McElhinny said. “We have three games next week, and that’s what we have to look forward to. If we can win those three games, we’re right back in the mix.”