MENDON — It wasn’t an easy team to open the basketball season against and host Mendon didn’t make things any easier by shooting 32.6 percent from the field and committing 15 turnovers Monday in a 60-44 loss to Battle Creek St. Philip.
The Fighting Tigers, with its entire starting five back from last season’s 13-9 campaign, darted out to a 7-0 lead before Mendon gained traction with a 6-2 run. Another 9-2 run by the Hornets knotted things up at 16-16 heading into the second quarter.
Using that momentum early in the second frame, Mendon’s defense came up with back-to-back steals that were converted into baskets and a 3-point play by senior Joe Gales gave the green team a 25-20 advantage midway through the quarter. Gales connected on a triple to regain the lead at 28-26 before St. Philip really started to find its groove on its way to a 35-29 halftime cushion.
Nothing seemed to fall for the Hornets in the second half and the Fighting Tigers got up by as many as 13 before entering the fourth quarter with an 11-point cushion (47-36).
Turnovers doomed Mendon in the fourth quarter and St. Philip made them pay with easy buckets on the other end.
“We’d like to shoot a little better than that, obviously,” Mendon coach David Swanwick said. “Effort on the defensive side — we didn’t have it. That’s kind of where all of our offense starts; you need to get the basketball. I thought we were kind of soft in the first half and, again, our effort was not there. [St. Philip] is a decent basketball team — a real good basketball team. He starts four seniors and a junior that all played last year. We knew coming in we had to show up. We did not.”
Senior forward/center Alex Doyle (6-foot-3) caused mismatch problems all night with his ability to extend out to the perimeter. After missing a lot of action last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, the big man poured in a game-high 17 points to lead a trio of Tigers to reach double figures.
“He averaged 15 or 20 for them last year and went down with an ACL,” Swanwick said. “Again, good players. Coach [Dino] English has a real good team and we did not match on our home floor. Obviously, I’m pretty frustrated with that.
“We looked to share the ball a number of times. A few times we tried to over-share. We can’t make three passes in five feet. At least we looked to try to share, which is always a positive. We just have to do it in the correct way.”
Gales led Mendon with 15 points and five rebounds, including a 4-for-5 effort at the foul line. Erik Batten registered seven points and two assists, Jordan Medich (two steals) and Marcus Craft each finished with six points and Zach Darmofal grabbed five boards.