It was frustrating to watch the end of Monday’s 75-72 loss to Barstow for Van Horn head coach Max Sollars.
The Knights hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to edge the Falcons that night. In Tuesday’s contest at St. Michael the Archangel, it was equally nerve wracking for Sollars.
His Falcons nipped at the heels of the Guardians the entire game, often trailing by just one, two or three points. But it seemed every time Van Horn had a chance to take the lead, it turned the ball over.
That’s what plagued them in a 70-67 non-conference loss to St. Michael.
“We lost some close games lately when we played well,” St. Michael head coach Mark Scanlon said. “It was nice for us to get a win. Today, we played pretty well for most of the game. A lot of times, we get behind and have to try and come back.”
The Falcons committed 20 turnovers, with 12 coming in the second half. A handful of those second-half turnovers came when the Falcons (11-12) had a chance to take the lead in late in the game.
“We just have to be mentally strong in the position we put our players in,” Sollars said. “It’s really important. Whenever you are in those spots, we have to just play. I think for the first time all season, we saw a little bit of sophomore in Jaden Monday.
“His struggles were triggered by poor shooting. Elite players figure out ways to win when they are struggling shooting the ball. You have to be able to overcome those things.”
Despite an off night shooting for Monday, he had 11 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists.
The Guardians (12-12) dominated the paint, scoring 42 of their 70 points there off the dribble drive, a putback or a pass to an open player underneath the basket. A few came off of Falcons turnovers, as well. Sollars credited the Guardians’ dominance in that category to the lack of rebounding by his team.
“It’s the same thing with us, the lack of pride to rebound,’ Sollars said. “outside of Isaac Fue-King and Isaiah Fue-King. When you start guys who are 5-8, 150 pounds in a Class 4 basketball game, it’s hard enough to get rebounds.
“Our second line of help wasn’t there tonight. It’s usually pretty good for us. When you’re small and not very strong, then on top of that you lack defensive rotation, it’s hard to win.”
Van Horn took an early 7-4 lead in the first quarter, but a 13-0 run by St. Michael capped Steven McFeders fastbreak layup off his own steal made it 17-7, a lead the Guardians never surrendered.
St. Michael went into the second period up 23-14, but the Falcons slowly chipped away at the lead and came within two points of the Guardians on two different occasions. Van Horn junior William Quinn hit a 3-pointer to make it 30-28 midway through the second, and senior guard Xavier Marrero completed a conventional 3-point play to make it 35-33 a little later. However, the Guardians went into halftime up 44-30.
Van Horn pulled within one point on two occasions in the third, including a baseline jumper from Monday that made it 53-52. However, the Guardians closed the period on a 7-0 spurt started by freshman Michael Haggerty’s old-fashioned, three-point play.
They took a 60-52 into the fourth, but a Marrero layup and a Quinn three quickly made it 60-57. The Guardians countered with a 9-0 run to make it 69-57. The Falcons came back with a 7-0 spurt of their own capped by another Quinn three. However, the Falcons were never able to catch up as they committed four turnovers in the final 2:30 of play.
“I thought we played well in the first half, then we got kind of sloppy in the third quarter,” said St. Michael junior forward Ben Palacios, who scored 14 points. “Then we picked it up at the beginning of the fourth and that was the difference.
“We switched up our defense (at halftime). We started with straight man then after the half, we came out pressing and switched to the zone. That really disrupted them.”
Anthony Holden led the Guardians with 19 points and Deuce Roberts added 12.
Caleb Tannis led Van Horn with 16 points, followed by Quinn with 14 and Marrero with 11.