Vermilion's Mason Montgomery lays the ball up on Friday night, February 8th. STEVE MANHEIM / CHRONICLE
VERMILION — When you shoot poorly it’s hard to win. When you shoot poorly and lose your starting point guard in the opening moments of the game, the chances of winning become much worse.
Vermilion found that out in a 54-48 Sandusky Bay Conference Bay Division loss to Willard on Friday night.
Three-year starter Seth Hurd left the game with a hip injury just two minutes into the first quarter with the game tied at 5. The Sailors (14-2, 9-1 SBC) were able to keep it close, but never took the lead.
Vermilion shot poorly overall, hitting just seven of 32 from the floor in the first half and 15 of 60 (25 percent) in the game. Willard (15-3, 8-2) led 29-23 at halftime and built the lead to 42-37 with 5:35 left in the game.
The Sailors rallied.
A Sterling Benko 3-pointer from the left corner pulled Vermilion to 48-46. After Brevon Polachek hit a pair of free throws with 1:22 left in the game, Luke Pena scored from down low to again pull the Sailors within two.
In the final minute, Vermilion had a chance to tie, but Joby Pfeil’s driving attempt bounced away.
Cooper Parrott hit another pair from the line for Willard, and when Myles Pinkston blocked Pfeil’s 3-point attempt with just over 18 seconds left the game was over.
It was the Sailors’ first loss in its last nine games while the Crimson Flashes ran their win streak to 10.
“When we sit down and defend, when all five guys buy into what we’re supposed to do on defense, we can be a pretty tough team to beat,” Willard coach Joe Bedingfield said. “I was really proud of our effort and our attention to detail.”
Vermilion missed its final five shots from the floor.
“We didn’t get a lot of bounces tonight and we did not shoot the ball well,” Sailors coach Kurt Habermehl said. “Unfortunately we had to play Reese and Mason and Jonah a lot of minutes with Seth going down. That put a little bit of a load on us and probably showed in the second half. They were pretty worn out.”
Willard works on late-game defense.
“We do a lot in practice with ‘stop-score-stop,” Bedingfield said. “We talk about how late in games you sometimes just need a stop, a score and a stop to change momentum. In a couple of late timeouts I told them that it was just like in practice, it was time for a stop-score-stop.
“They were able to do that tonight and that was the difference in the ballgame late.”
Parrott led the Crimson Flashes with 17 points. His free throw with 34.6 seconds left was his 1,000th career point.
Senior Reese Miller led Vermilion with a game-high 18 points.
The Sailors have the chance to clinch a share of the conference title tonight at Margaretta.
“It’s going to be a mental thing because they’re going to be really tired,” Habermehl said of the quick turnaround against the Polar Bears. “I know we’re going to be really tired after playing a game like this. I’m not concerned about how they’re going to play basketball (tonight), I’m more concerned about their approach mentally.
“We’re going to have to be ready to think the game and play basketball. If we come out flat we’ll be in trouble.”
Hurd will be evaluated this morning to see if he will be available.
“More than anything, with Seth in the game it frees everybody else up,” Habermehl said. “They don’t have to bring the ball down the floor, they don’t have to go against pressure. Seth can guard the other team’s point guard and he’s a very good defender.
“If he’s not on the floor it takes our rotation out of the game. We’ve got to play some players in different positions that they’re not comfortable playing in. It showed a little bit tonight.”
With or without Hurd, Habermehl expects his team to be prepared against Margaretta.
“I trust these guys are going to come out ready to play,” he said. “We’ve got a lot to still play for. We’ve got a conference to clinch. (Tonight) is going to be a bear to go there and play and they know that. I trust these guys, they’ve done it all year and they’ve done it their whole careers.”
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Willard 54, Vermilion 48
WILLARD (54): Brevon Polachek 4-5-13, Terry Baldridge 7-0-14, Myles Pinkston 2-0-4, Davon Triplett 1-0-2, Cooper Parrott 5-4-17, Joey Holida 0-2-2, Jerrett Sowers 1-0-2. Totals 20-11-54.
VERMILION (48): Jonah Pfeil 2-2-6, Seth Hurd 0-2-2, Mason Montgomery 3-2-9, Luke Pena 1-1-3, Reese Miller 6-3-18, Zach Kovach 1-2-4, Sterling Benko 2-0-6, Ryan Habermehl 0-0-0, Davis McDaniel 0-0-0, Kameron Caskey 0-0-0, Mark Morris 0-0-0. Totals 15-12-48.
Willard 13 16 7 18 — 54
Vermilion 12 11 10 15 — 48
Three-point goals: Willard 3-11 (Parrott 3), Vermilion 6-28 (Miller 3, Benko 2, Montgomery). Field goals: Willard 20-43 (46.5 percent), Vermilion 15-60 (25 percent). Free throws: Willard 11-16 (68.7 percent), Vermilion 12-20 (60 percent). Rebounds: Willard 33 (Pinkston 9), Vermilion 42 (Kovach 10). Turnovers: Willard 18, Vermilion 11. Total fouls: Willard 18, Vermilion 17.
Junior varsity: Vermilion, 58-42.