WESTMORELAND – Senior swingman Jack Acquaviva is Westmoreland’s go-to guy.
During Thursday’s Center State Conference Division III game against Mount Markham, the Bulldogs proved they have plenty of options when their star forward is not having his best day.
With Acquaviva in foul trouble throughout much of the game, sophomore point guard Luke Fredsell and big man Jhovani Castro picked up the slack as the Bulldogs pulled away in the second half to defeat the determined Mustangs 60-42.
Fredsell controlled the game from the point, scoring 16 and creating easy looks for his teammates, including Castro, who poured in a career-high 17 points. Senior forward Devan Palmer kept the Mustangs in the game by posting 24 points and 11 rebounds – both career highs.
“It’s a team game,” Campbell said. “You need five guys on the court functioning together. We played eight guys and they all contributed. Mount Markham is always a scrappy bunch. They play hard.”
Mount Markham’s 2-3 zone defense gave the Bulldogs trouble in the first half. Palmer kept the Mustangs in the lead for much of the first half, scoring 18 points, mostly on high-effort put-backs and post moves that helped his team build a 20-16 lead midway through the second quarter. However, Fredsell figured out and exploited a weakness in Mount Markham’s zone and hit Castro with several bullet passes that resulted in layups and a 27-26 lead for the home team at the break.
“When teams play zone I look to see if the high post is open,” Fredsell said. “If it isn’t, I look to the baseline.”
In all, Castro had eight points in the second quarter, and all were nearly identical as he found holes along the baseline and was able to finish from in close.
“They were leaving me open,” Castro said. “(Fredsell) has great vision and if I’m open he finds me every time. It just shows we have a lot of good players. Our starters and our bench players can score. I thought we did well today.”
The Mustangs quickly regained the lead early in the third quarter on another bucket by Palmer, but it was their last of the game as the Bulldogs went on an 8-0 run on a lay-in by Castro, a three-pointer by Fredsell and three free throws by Acquaviva.
The Bulldogs picked up their pressure and forced numerous turnovers to slowly pull away by outscoring the Mustangs 32-15 in the second half.
“I think we believe in our entire team,” Fredsell said. “Jack will have his great games, and when he doesn’t … we showed we can still win.”
Campbell knows the type of player he has at point guard. Fredsell is a high-energy performer, who wreaked havoc on defense and showed great judgment and control against the Mustangs.
“We talked about him being a distributor first,” Campbell said. “If he does that, the scoring will come as a result.”
Acquaviva finished with 14 for the Bulldogs (5-1, 9-4), who remain right on the heels of division-leading Waterville. The Bulldogs host Waterville on Feb. 4 in meeting that could decide who wins or shares the CSC Division III title. But to make that game a big one, the Bulldogs likely will have to win their next three games.
“Winning the league is always the first goal,” Campbell said. “Every game will be tough. Even the teams that aren’t the most talented will scrap and make it tough.”
Collin Maine scored eight points and Asmir Keren had six for the Mustangs (0-6, 3-11), who still have postseason aspirations. Mount Markham will have to win four of its final six games to qualify for sectionals, and Palmer knows his team will never give up.
“It will be tough,” Palmer said. “I think we can win. I believe in my team. I know it will be tough, but we still have a chance.”
The Mustangs played very hard throughout the entire game and Palmer took away some positives from the loss.
“We moved the ball well tonight,” Palmer said. “We were able to get the ball inside and to the basket. We wanted this game a lot, and even though we lost, I thought we played better than we have been.”
Westmoreland 60, Mount Markham 42
Mount Markham 13 14 9 6—42
Westmoreland 12 16 17 15—60
Mount Markham: Devan Palmer 8-8 24; Collin Maine 3-0 8; Brent Bond 1-0 2; Dylan Luke 1-0 2; Asmir Keren 3-0 6. Totals: 16-8-42; 3-Pointers: 2 (Maine 2).
Westmoreland: Jhovani Castro 8-1 17; Luke Fredsell 6-1 16; Jack Acquaviva 3-8 14; Zach Merritt 2-0 5; Colin DeBiase 1-1 3; Joe Becker 1-0 2; Tyler Deveans 0-1 1; Brandon Wilson 1-0 2. Totals: 22-12-60. 3-Pointers: 4 (Fredsell 3, Merritt).
Nick Sardina is a writer for midyorksportsreport.com. Follow Nick onTwitter @nsardinamysr or on Facebook. Contact him via email at [email protected]