MOUNT PLEASANT — By the midway point of the fourth quarter it became evident that the outcome of Friday’s Concord-Mount Pleasant boys basketball game would hinge on how often the Tigers’ Hunter Sloop would have the ball in his hands and how much his teammates would continue to keep it from the Spiders’ Nijel Robinson.
Sloop’s dominant final period, on the boards and at the free throw line, coupled with Mount Pleasant’s game-long diamond-and-one defense designed to agitate Concord’s leading scorer, evolved into a 67-58 non-conference victory and allowed the home team to break a two-game slide while stretching the visitors’ losing skid to four.
The Tigers enter Tuesday’s Rocky River 2A Conference opener at home against Monroe Central Academy with a 3-4 overall record. The Spiders dropped to 3-4 and continue non-conference action at Mallard Creek on Tuesday.
“I didn’t want to lose this game because I didn’t want to lose the kids,” said Mount Pleasant coach Jody Barbee, whose team was playing without two starting guards who were lost to injury earlier in the week. “I don’t think I would have, but at the same time, a game like this against a crosstown rival, if you steal it, it does wonders for your ego.”
The third quarter ended with back-to-back 3-pointers from Johnakin Franklin and his teammate Robinson to bring Concord to within 48-46. Robinson’s make was a bit controversial.
The senior guard grabbed a Mount Pleasant miss at one end and dribbled up the right side of the court. He stopped just short of the 3-point line, pump-faked to get a Tigers defender off his feet, and launched a long jumper.
The game official standing closest to Robinson initially ruled that the shot came after the buzzer. The referee immediately referred to a colleague, who judged the shot was good. Barbee briefly protested but quickly retreated to his bench, where he felt the need to send two messages.
First, Barbee had to lift the dejected spirit of his players, who he had to be reminded that they still had the lead. Secondly, he thought the 6-foot-8 Sloop had to get more involved.
Said Barbee: “I told him to take over. ‘At some point and time, we have to put the ball in your hands.’”
The rock did end up in Sloop’s hands quite often but mostly after Concord missed shots. He grabbed seven straight defensive rebounds to begin the fourth quarter, and three times in the period’s first three minutes he went to the line and made a pair of free throws.
When Sloop added a driving layup, then his only 3-pointer of the game with 3 minutes, 7 seconds remaining, Mount Pleasant’s lead increased to 61-49. Sloop finished with game-highs of 23 points and 15 rebounds.
Robinson, who led Concord with 17 points and six rebounds, scored three baskets inside of a minute to bring Concord to within 62-57 with a little more than a minute to go, but it wasn’t enough.
The Spiders started the contest even slower than they finished it. Concord missed its first five shots and committed four turnovers in the game’s first three minutes, prompting coach Barrett Krueger to call timeout.
“We didn’t get to the pace we really wanted tonight,” said the Spiders’ first-year coach. “I thought we did a decent job of pressuring early and causing some turnovers. But we struggled to score, and it’s hard to get to that pace when you’re struggling to score.”
Led by Jonah Mott’s 11 first-half points (16 for the game), Concord regrouped to take a brief lead in the second quarter. Sophomore Magnus Swinger chipped in with 11 points and six rebounds.
Freshman guard Lawson Little scored 11 of his career-high 15 points in the first half, while 10 of Jamal Williams’ 14 points were registered after halftime.
Concord 14 16 16 12 — 58
Mount Pleasant 16 17 15 19 — 67
CONCORD — Nijel Robinson 17, Jonah Mott 16, Magnus Swinger 11, Rogers 9, Franklin 3, Toe 2
MOUNT PLEASANT — Hunter Sloop 23, Lawson Little 15, Jamal Williams 14, Jadon Carnes 10, Pruitt 4, M. Williams 1