ARCOLA — Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond, a team that had won two of its last three games, used a 12-2 run in the second quarter to cut a 13-point deficit down to three with 30.6 seconds left in the half. Arcola's Hugo Garza gave the Purple Riders some momentum going into the locker room as he drained a 3-pointer with eight seconds left. Arcola went on to win 72-51 and remain undefeated in the Little Okaw Valley Conference Northwest Division at 4-0.
"We came out ready to go," said Arcola coach Greg Gisinger, whose team improved to 11-17 overall. "I thought we jumped on them early and I thought their coach (Brad McGill) did a nice job of adjusting to something we were doing defensively and that bothered us in the second quarter. In the third quarter, we did a good job. We just had a little more than them tonight and it was a good win for our team."
McGill said of the basket at the half, "I think that really turned it around. We fought back great. We didn't play a great first quarter, but we fought back into it. We told our kids one possession at a time and play good defense and our shots will eventually fall. We kind of got stung at the half. I didn't do a good enough job of them prepared for the second half."
Arcola switched to a 2-3 zone in the third quarter and speedsters Ivan Franco and Kevin Garza caused the Knights problems at the top of the zone. The Purple Riders led 32-26 with 4:38 left in the third quarter when they pulled away with a 21-6 run over the next 5:30, taking a 53-32 lead on a pair of free throws by Franco.
The run began after one of six three-pointers (five in the second half) by Austin Plank of A-L-A-H. Arcola made 15-of-19 shots from the field from that point on starting with baskets by Alec Downs and Kaleb Byard. Hugo Garza followed with two baskets, including a putback for a 41-27 lead. Ben Crane had 4 points and Kevin Garza 6 during the rest of the run.
"There five out was bothering us a little bit," said Gisinger. "We were not jumping to the ball that well. They had a matchup that they liked and they exploited that, but I think our zone bothered them for a while. Then they figured out and we jumped back to man."
McGill said they had not seen much 2-3 very much at all.
"It took us out of our game a little," said McGill. "We work on our zone offense every time we practice, but seeing it in live action set us back. We adjusted to it, but not quick enough. In a game like this you when you go from 10 points, three possessions can really kill you. if you don't' score on three and they do it is tough."
The game started slowly, but Arcola did score the first 10 points of the game, including eight by Kaleb Byard. The Knights got on the board with a basket by Plank. The Purple Riders made their last four field goals in the opening quarter, including one by Garza at the buzzer.
After a steal and layup by Byard made it 22-9, the Knights closed the gap starting with a basket by Wyatt Romine and putback by Cody Miller. Austin Romine's basket made it 22-15 and Wyatt Romine's 3-pointer and a free throw by Nick Miller cut it o five. Austin Romine's basket made it 24-21.
"We missed a few shots in the third quarter and turned the ball over and we did something that we didn't' want to do," said McGill who said the team is to practice at 8 a.m. Saturday. "To our credit, they fought the whole game. Even when things didn't' go the way they wanted them to do they were still fighting. They have this no quit attitude even when they are down. As a coach, I am happy they have that because that is tough."
Byard, who entered the game averaging 8.4 points per game, finished with a game-high 23 points.
"Our bench tonight was fantastic," said Gisinger. "Ben Crane off the bench with 15 and Hugo Garza with 14 (season-high). Some of the guys who didn't play until the end like Jacob Butler and Austin Hopkins, Their energy on the bench was great. They get fired up and got our guys going again. We lost that in the second quarter. We need that form those guys all of the time."
The Knights, 3-19 and 1-3 in the division, were led by Plank with 21 points, while Austin Romine had 16.
Arcola shot 57 percent compared to 40 for the Knights. There was a total of eight 3-pointers in the final quarter.
Arcola is to travel to Villa Grove to play Villa Grove/Heritage at noon Saturday, while A-L-A-H is to play host to Sangamon Valley in a LOVC NW division game.