The Bay School boys’ basketball team largely accomplished its main objective on Tuesday against Gateway by limiting the Gators’ standout frontcourt with a stingy 2-3 zone, but the Breakers couldn’t limit it on defense.
The Gators held Bay to 26 percent shooting from the floor, and combined with 11 blocks, limited the Breakers to a season-low point total in their 50-34 Bay Counties League Central win.
Both teams came into the game undefeated in league play, but the game looked like a mismatch early. Gateway (10-2, 4-0) led 17-4 after the first quarter and the Breakers (10-8, 4-1) shot just 1-of-15 from the floor in the opening frame.
“Their length definitely bothered us,” Bay coach Pete Overfelt said. “Early in the game, we were getting our shots, but we just couldn’t convert. That, combined with them closing out harder, really got in our heads.”
Bay’s poor overall shooting numbers were even skewed by a hot third quarter, in which the Breakers shot 7-of-12 from the floor and cut a 13-point halftime deficit to 32-28 late in the frame.
Gateway’s defensive performance in the fourth quarter, however, put the game away. The Gators combined for five blocks in the final eight minutes and held the Breakers to just six points to pull away comfortably.
“Bay is such a good shooting team that we had to take away their ability to shoot the 3 without being contested, and if they go inside, we have our big guys in there,” Gateway coach Greg Grossman said. “We focused on the perimeter and let our guys clean up down low, and it worked well.
The Gateway defensive effort was led by 6-foot-6 senior center Kenechi Anigbogu, who had a game-high four blocks, but three other players tallied multiple rejections, even 6-foot guard Asante Munson. The junior had just two points and only took two shots from the floor, but contributed with two blocks and nine rebounds.
Anigbogu, the main target of Bay’s zone, got plenty of touches, but struggled to get the ball in a position to score close to the basket. The senior still scored a game-high 14 points and his defensive effort was rewarded in the final moments of the game. On a two-on-one fast break, Anigbogu put the finishing touches on the win with a two-handed, alley-oop dunk on an assist from guard Fernando Portillo.
“The kids love it,” Grossman said of the dunk, a rarity in small-school prep basketball. “It doesn’t mean anything to anything else, but if they put in the hard work, they deserve to get a play like that and celebrate it.”
The Gators largely controlled the paint and outrebounded the Breakers 42-25, paced by a double-double from senior forward Raymond Porter (10 points, 10 rebounds), but one Bay forward did his best to battle with the Gateway bigs. Junior center Jason Nemerovski finished tied for the team lead with eight points and took in a game-high 12 rebounds (seven offensive), nearly half of the Breakers’ rebounding total.
Despite the offensive struggles, Bay was able to stay in the game throughout on the strength of its zone. The Gators shot 40 percent from the floor, but often had extended possessions and many resulted in turnovers.
“Bay plays a great zone and It limits our big guys, and we’re a mediocre shooting team, so if we go cold from outside, it’s going to tighten up a little bit,” Grossman said. “They slowed us down offensively. We’ve been scoring 40 [points a half].”