LODI - Keystone coach Greg Morgan didn`t offer any excuses after Tuesday night`s 56-45 non-conference loss to host Cloverleaf. In fact, he quickly pointed out why his Wildcats dropped to 1-1 on the season.
"I think there were two things that hurt us tonight," Morgan said. "First, we missed a ton of easy shots. Our shooting percentage in general wasn`t very good at all. But we missed a lot of shots in the block, in-the-paint shots that we should have made.
"Second, we didn`t box out and rebound. We could have overcome the rebounding part if we were making our shots. But the combination of the two killed us."
Despite leading 12-8 after the first quarter and 20-19 at halftime, the Wildcats were being badly beaten on the boards. In the first half, Cloverleaf (4-0) dominated the glass with a 29-15 advantage. Three Cloverleaf players had at least five boards in the opening two quarters, led by Dustin Connor, who grabbed 11 by the break and 14 overall.
Helping overcome the Wildcats` lackluster rebounding was their defensive effort. Although Cloverleaf was getting second and third looks at the basket they weren`t converting.
In the first half, Cloverleaf hit just 7 of 36 attempts and Colts standout Parker Hewitt, who came in averaging over 29 points per game, had just six points.
"They (Keystone) did a nice job shutting down Parker," said Cloverleaf coach Fred Haldiman. "But we had some other kids step up tonight like Dustin and Jordan (Markley) in the first half to carry us until Parker got going."
Hewitt started warming up in the third quarter, scoring seven points as the Colts outscored Keystone 17-12 to take a 36-32 advantage into the final eight minutes.
Back-to-back baskets by Markley and Hewitt upped the Colts` lead to 40-32, but the Wildcats came back. A 6-2 run cut the lead to 42-38 with 5:49 to play. Cloverleaf ran 1:30 off the clock before a pair of free throws by Markley upped the lead to 44-38. Keystone`s Corey Dill brought the deficit back to 42-38 with 4:08 to go.
But that`s when the Keystone offense stalled and Cloverleaf took advantage.
A 6-0 run by the Colts extended the lead to 50-40 with 1:10 remaining. A Mike Herb free throw with 42 seconds left stopped the Keystone dry spell but the damage was already done.
The Colts scored their last six points from the free throw line to ice the game. Cloverleaf, which hit 23 of its 28 attempts from the line, went 12-for-12 in the final quarter.
"We had to commit those fouls down the stretch," Morgan said. "To their credit, (Cloverlead) made the foul shots. Anytime a team goes to the line 23 times it`s a good night. To make 23 shots in a game is just outstanding and tough to overcome."
Jeff Knepper and Kyle Smith led the Wildcats with 13 and 10 points, respectively. For Cloverleaf, Hewitt finished with 19, while Markley tossed in 13.
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Cloverleaf 56, Keystone 45
KEYSTONE (45): Jeff Knepper 6-1-13, Kyle Smith 3-2-10, Mike Herb 1-3-5, Kyle Shaw 2-0-5, Corey Dill 2-0-4, Matt Herb 2-0-4, Corey Smith 1-2-4. Totals: 17-8-45.
CLOVERLEAF (56): Parker Hewitt 6-7-19, Jordan Markley 3-7-13, Dustin Connor 1-6-8, Billy Parker 3-1-7, Cody Roberts 1-0-3, Tyler Luce 1-0-2, Kyle Juszczyk 0-2-2, Dylan Varga 1-0-2. Totals: 16-23-56.
Keystone 12 8 12 13 - 45
Cloverleaf 8 11 17 20 - 56
Three-point goals: Keystone 3 of 27 (Smith 2, Shaw), Cloverleaf 1 of 5 (Roberts). Field goals: Keystone 17 of 63 (27 percent), Cloverleaf 16 of 54 (29 percent). Free throws: Keystone 8 of 12 (67 percent), Cloverleaf 23 of 28 (82 percent). Rebounds: Keystone 28 (Mike Herb 6), Cloverleaf 45 (Connor 14). Turnovers: Keystone 17, Cloverleaf 14. Fouls: Keystone 20, Cloverleaf 12. Fouled out: None.
Junior varsity: Cloverleaf 48-38.