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Second half offensive struggles Saturday against Warren didn’t derail Downers South’s late season surge.
Despite committing 14 second-half turnovers (20 in the game) and making just 2 of 11 field goals after the intermission, the Mustangs (13-9) stifled Warren with its own strong defensive effort to win 42-37.
“It would be nice if we scored 60 points in a game, but it’s not happening so we have to play defense,” said Downers South coach Jay Baum. “And we’ve been doing that. That’s what we always hang our hat on, defense.”
The Mustangs, who have won five of their last seven games, forced 19 Warren turnovers on the night and held the Blue Devils (13-10) to 7 of 24 field goal shooting in the second half.
That defense was needed late to make a 35-27 third-quarter lead hold up, as the Mustangs were 0 for 6 from the field in the fourth quarter with six turnovers (but made 7 of 10 free throws).
“In the fourth quarter we’re trying to find a balance between attacking and running some clock,” Baum said, “and that’s always difficult to make the right decision all the time. But for the most part we made good decisions and we made our free throws at the end. I’m really proud of our guys.”
The offensive star of the defensive tug of war was Downers South’s Jordan Cannon (14 points, four rebounds), who scored 10 of his points in the second quarter to help turn an early 12-10 deficit into a 29-21 Mustang halftime lead.
“I knew I couldn’t get my head down after one shot,” Cannon said. “I had to keep shooting and eventually they would fall in. My teammates did a great job finding me on the court and I was able to knock shots down.”
Danny Spinuzza (nine points, three steals), Robert Mara (six points, seven rebounds) and Scott McNellis (six points, five rebounds) also sparked the latest Downers South win.
“In our latest practices the team intensity has been much better,” Cannon said. “We have a lot more experience now, and there’s a team friendship and a team chemistry that we’ve finally found. We bring that out on the court and play how we practice, and we executed tonight. It was a great win.”
Balanced Warren was led by Adrian Deere (10 points, three assists) and Arthell Rosquist (seven points, four steals), with Derek Mason and Dre Von Hill (seven rebounds) adding six points each.
“I thought defensively we weren’t very sharp in the first half,” Warren coach Ryan Webber said. “And we were just careless and lazy with the ball all night long. We must have missed double digit layups.
“At the end of the day you have to score to win, and we didn’t do anything inside collectively as a team. It wasn’t any one guy.”
Saturday’s setback followed the frustration of a 56-55 loss Friday to Zion-Benton.
“We didn’t make anything from three or inside on the weekend, and that’s why we get swept,” Webber said. “You have to make shots.”
Rosquist had two layups and two steals in the first 42 seconds of the fourth quarter to quickly pull the Blue Devils within 35-31. But with the Downers South lead 37-36 with 1:39 left, two straight Warren turnovers and Mustang free throws halted the rally.
Along with building on its February momentum, Downers South had added incentive Saturday in the home finale for the Mustangs’ seniors and retiring coach Baum.
“It’s our last time on this court,” Cannon said. “I didn’t want to go out of here with a loss.”