Benefield: Piner boys start league play with a bang
Piner High junior Isaac Torres had a 10-point third quarter to make a big lead a truly insurmountable one as the Prospectors ran away with the North Bay League-Oak Division boys basketball opener against Montgomery 54-28 on Tuesday night.
Piner’s relentless defense was the theme of the night, holding the Vikings to a paltry four points in the opening quarter. No Viking scored more than six points on the night.
“I thought we played great team defense. I thought we played really hard,” Piner coach Mike Erickson said.
The win moves Piner to 12-2 overall and 1-0 in league. Montgomery drops to 7-7 overall and 0-1 in league. And they had already lost once to this Piner squad — a 57-43 Prospector win on Dec. 13 in the Arcata Invitational tournament.
Erickson said in that one, the Vikings’ big man, sophomore Nolan Bessire, did a number on them, so they doubled down Tuesday — literally. The Prospector defense, already legendarily tough, collapsed on Bessire every time he touched the ball in the paint. The Prospectors forced the Vikings to make the outside shot and they couldn’t come up with anything.
The Vikings hit just two three-pointers all night.
“They are athletic enough, quick enough and well coached that they can kind of pressure the ball in the perimeter and when the balls gets in they can scrap down and then get back to the perimeter,” Montgomery coach Zac Tiedeman said. “They put so much pressure on you throughout the whole game that even when you have a good look, you are used to having someone in your face the whole time.”
Bessire led the Vikings with six points and Devin Ramirez and Nico Bounkhoun each had five points.
But this one was all Prospectors from the opening tip.
“They jumped on us early,” Tiedeman said. “Once they got that lead, I think they smelled the blood, I guess you could say.”
The Vikings went to a 2-3 zone defense with six minutes to play in the second quarter and it seemed to staunch the bleeding — at least temporarily. They forced two quick turnovers, only to cough up the rewards under return pressure from the Prospectors.
Cole Hallin hit a bucket to pull the Vikings to a deficit of just 20-10 with 4:30 to play, but the Prospectors found a couple of cracks in the zone.
“We haven’t seen a whole lot of zone this year,” Erickson said. “A lot of times with the zone, if you are making shots it looks like you’ve solved it.”
It was 25-14 at the half, but Torres’ scorching third quarter blew the game wide open.
The Prospectors opened the third quarter with a full-court press and Torres went to town. He scored six straight points, including a stolen inbounds passed that he converted for a layup to make it 34-17 with 4:16 to play.
Then Cam Chanta got a steal that he dished to — yep — Torres, who laid it in for his 10th point of the quarter. By the end of those eight minutes, it was Prospectors 42, Montgomery 19.
“He has a way to disrupt the game,” Erickson said of Torres. “He’s got good instincts and he’s quick, he’s lanky. We press with him out front, he knocks a lot of balls loose. He’s a good on-ball guy for sure.”