You'd be hard pressed to find many players around the state who have improved as much from last season to this one as Manchester Memorial junior Trevon Maughn. The 5-foot-10 point guard has simply been on a tear all season scoring the basketball, shooting lights out from the outside, finishing on the break and also taking his man off the dribble and hitting floaters and leaners inside.
Maughn's breakout season continued on Tuesday night, as he dropped a game-high 26 points to lead Memorial to a 62-52 win over Pinkerton. Both Memorial and Pinkerton are both now tied in the standings at 8-9, so this game was crucial in terms of playoff seeding.
One of the keys to the win for the Crusaders was containing the Astros' inside game. Pinkerton relies heavily on their 2 bigs - 6-foot-7 sophomore Luke Rosinski and 6-foot-6 junior David Faulks. Faulks scored 16 points, but he was in foul trouble for much of the game and Rosinski was held to just 7 points on the evening.
"Our coach scouted them well" Maughn explained. "He said their offense goes through Rosinski. We did a good job on him."
"Coach also told us to attack the basket, go right at their bigs, and try to get them in foul trouble" said Kabongo Ngalakulondi, who had 13 points and 10 rebounds on the game. "We're not as big but we worked harder than them, especially on rebounding."
Faulks being in foul trouble was definitely a factor. He picked up his second foul late in the 1st quarter, and sat lout the rest of the 1st and the entire 2nd quarter. Then he picked u his 3rd foul less than 2 minutes into the 3rd quarter and sat the rest of the 3rd. When Faulks was in there he was very effective, scoring 16 points but due to foul trouble he only played about half the game.
With Faulks out of the game, Memorial was able to not only focus their whole defense on Rosinski, but now there was one less big guy in the paint so offensively they were able to attack the rim more. Still, Pinkerton hung in there and only trailed by 1, 37-36 after 3 quarters.
Faulks went back in to start the 4th and immediately scored inside, giving the Astros a 38-37 lead. Then Memorial junior guard Wade Gop drilled a big 3-pointer off a kick out by Ngalakulondi, and the Crusaders went back ahead 40-38. On the other end it was Faulks again, scoring 2 more inside and we were all tied up 40-40. Then Gop hit another 3, this one from the left corner. That's 2 huge 3-pointers for Gop, both of them gave Memorial the lead back.
"The defense was focused on Trevon and Kabongo, so that left me open" said Gop.
Then it was Maughn's turn to hit a clutch 3-pointer, as he put the basketball through his legs and buried a step-back, as Memorial now led 47-42. Memorial then gets the ball right back, pushes it on the break and sophomore forward Brandon Scott (9 points) makes the and-1 finish and it's 50-42 Crusaders with 4:30 left in the 4th quarter. Then Ngalakulondi knifed his way to the rim for a strong finish in traffic, making it 54-44 and capping a 14-4 Memorial run after Pinkerton had tied it up 40-40.
"We took control of the game back from them" said Maughn. "We just had to stay calm and keep playing our game."
Pinkerton kept battling though, as Drew Green hit a 3 and Faulks again scored inside. The Memorial lead was now just 5, 54-49 with 2:21 left in regulation - it wasn't over yet. But then the Crusaders hit another clutch 3-pointer, and this time it was freshman guard Craig Preston. That was a big shot and now the lead was back up to 8, 57-49 with 2:02 left.
Memorial kept pushing the tempo, as Maughn broke free for a layup in transition and it was 60-49 Crusaders. Memorial held on from there for the 62-52 final.
The points were few and far between in the 1st half, as both teams were playing tough defense. One nice play early on was when Pinkerton guard Sam Dolan threw up a lob pass for Faulks, who had his back turned to the bucket as he leaped up to catch the pass. Faulks caught the pass, and while still in mid-pair he threw the shot up over his head (with his back still turned to the rim). The shot went off the backboard and in. The Astros were clearly trying to establish their inside game early on with Faulks and Rosinski, and the Astros took an early 6-4 lead (all 6 points by Faulks).
Green came off the bench and immediately hit a 3 to put Pinkerton up 9-6. But then Memorial closed the 1st quarter on a 6-0 run. Maughn zipped a nice lead pass ahead to Ngalakulondi for a layup, and then sophomore wing Malo Roumraj drove inside and hit a nice floater. It was 12-9 Memorial after 1 quarter, and then Pinkerton sophomore wing Brennan orris buried a 3 in the 2nd quarter to cut the lead to 14-12. Maughn answered right back though with a 3 of his own, followed by a layup on the break by Roumraj. Ngalakulondi then hit a pull-up jumper from 15 feet in transition and it was 21-12 Crusaders, capping a 7-0 run with 5:33 left in the 1st half and forcing Pinkerton to call timeout.
The Memorial run continued though, as Maughn pulled up from the top of the key and connected on another 3-pointer. Then they got another steal, and Maughn finished the easy layup on the other end to make it 26-14 Crusaders. These teams clearly have 2 different styles. Memorial wants to run, while Pinkerton wants to slow it down and pound it inside. Early on the pace favored PA but now it was favoring Memorial.
Rosinski made a strong move and finish inside, followed by a 3 by junior wing Ryan Burke and Pinkerton closed to within 26-19 at halftime. The 12-2 run that Memorial went on so far was the difference, and it should be noted that Faulks was on the bench with 2 fouls during that run.
In the 3rd quarter the Astros got back in the game. Faulks was back in there with the 2 fouls to start the 3rd, and right away he scored inside. On the other end though Maughn came right back, slashing inside and hitting a smooth finger roll. Then just a minute and a half into the quarter, Faulks picked up his 3rd foul and was removed from the game.
With one less big guy in there for Pinkerton, Ngalakulondi took his man off the dribble, attacking the rim and scoring inside to make it 30-21 Memorial. Then the Crusaders got another steal, which led to another layup for Maughn and it was now 32-23.
Then came the play of the game. Memorial again got a steal, and again pushed the ball ahead to Maughn. This time Rosinski hustled back on defense to prevent the easy layup. So Maughn dished it to the trailer, Ngalakulondi who caught the pass and threw down a thunderous, posterizing one-handed slam dunk right in Rosinski's face. It was quite the display of athleticism for the 6-foot-2 Ngalakulondi and really got the crowd into it. However the official blew the whistle and said that he traveled with it before going up for the dunk - that was a tough call! Memorial head coach Jack Quirk wasn't happy with the travel call and was then whistled for a technical foul.
As a result, Morris hit both of the technical free throws and PA got possession. Jeremy Dietzel hit a 3-pointer from the corner for the Astros and then teammate Caleb Godin converted a put-back inside, and just like that the Memorial lead was down to 1, 35-34. It was an 11-2 run for Pinkerton.
Maughn answered with a nice drive and athletic finish to push the lead back up to 3, 37-34. But then Burke made an explosive drive and finish of his own, scoring right before the 3rd quarter buzzer and it was 37-36 Crusaders after 3.