AMHERST — Every coach tries to make adjustments at halftime to make their team better in the second half.
For Avon coach Kevin Sapara, his halftime adjustment was a key for the Eagles in a 64-52 Southwestern Conference win over Amherst on Tuesday.
Avon (4-6, 2-5) trailed 28-24 at intermission, but the Eagles’ adjustment on defense held the Comets to 24 points in the second half, including only 10 points in the third quarter.
“We wanted to try to press a little bit more, try to pressure the ball a little bit more and dictate the tempo in the first half,” Sapara said. “(The Comets) completely did what they wanted to do, as far as controlling the tempo of the game with their zone. We wanted to create turnovers in the second half and get them out of their zone.”
It didn’t start out well for the Eagles. Amherst jumped out to a 15-6 lead and Avon had trouble defending the 3-point line and Amherst’s best shooter, senior guard Troy Toth. Toth made four 3-pointers in the opening quarter and led the Comets with 17 points.
“Troy can shoot,” Amherst coach Pat Bray said. “He’s one of those guys that if he gets a good look, he can knock it down. We have to be able to get him to the basket, too. Once he’s able to play inside-and-out, he’ll be a better player.”
Avon managed to pull within four points and trailed 17-13 at the end of the first quarter.
The Eagles and Comets both began the second half cold until Avon’s 6-foot-4 junior forward Jake Parker got the gym rocking. Ryan Maloy ripped the ball away from Amherst’s Ryan Hrisko then passed to Parker downcourt for a two-handed dunk that fired up the visiting crowd.
The Eagles came out clicking at both ends of the floor in the second half.
Junior guard Dean Emerine stepped up when his team needed him to make shots, scoring 10 of his game-high 21 points in the third period, including two 3-pointers.
“I thought we moved the ball really well as a team and that created open shots for everyone,” Emerine said. “We ran plays that got people open and I happened to be that guy tonight.”
Avon also switched to a pressing style on defense in the second half that forced Amherst into bad shots. The Eagles controlled the boards in the second half, with senior forward Max Torbert leading his team in the department with seven for the game.
“He knows what his job is out there. It’s to be physical and to be that garbage guy,” Sapara said. “He’s completely bought into that. He gives us that toughness for our team and he did a great job in his role tonight. I’m very proud of him.”
Even after a loss that dropped the Comets to 2-9 overall and 1-7 in the SWC, Bray believes his team is making improvements.
“Our game plan is what it is and we’re sticking to it and we’re putting ourselves in games where we can win,” he said. “We talk about it in the locker room, getting over that hump. We’re getting better and the kids aren’t quitting.”