HICO — Aidan Lesher came out on fire, and the Midland Trail Patriots eventually settled in and disposed of rival Meadow Bridge, 58-39, Tuesday at John Flournoy Gymnasium.
Lesher converted four 3-point goals in a back-and-forth opening quarter, with the final one giving the Patriots a 17-14 lead at the buzzer. The junior wound up with a game-high 21 points on the evening as Midland Trail won its second straight.
The Wildcats stayed in contention in the third quarter, as Rian Cooper connected on a 3-pointer to make it 41-31 near the end of the stanza, but an Indy Eades three-point play pushed the lead back out to 44-31, then Peyton Sheaves scored in the paint for a 46-31 margin.
"We're not shooting," said Midland Trail coach Curtis Miller. "If we're going to score, it's got to be because we run the floor.
"Our transition game was the difference tonight."
Meadow Bridge coach Mark Gladwell said his team must do a better job of controlling loose balls. "We've got to quit playing volleyball on the rebounding side of it," Gladwell said.
"Two or three times we get hands on balls (on deflection or rebounds) and bat it around 2-3 times, and they end up with it," he added. "We need better hands.
"I can't fault the effort. We played our guts out; we played hard. Everybody knows we can't score very well. Early on, we were trying to play zone to stay out of foul trouble. We're thinner tonight than normal. And Lesher came out shooting lights-out."
Miller says he's involved more players in the rotation of late. "We played a lot of young guys (11 as opposed to a seven-man rotation the Patriots usually employ). Some of these young guys have been playing very good on the jayvee side." The aim is to "give them a chance, rotate 11 in and find the five hottest ones on the floor."
Another key was that Meadow Bridge post player Caidan Connor was hampered with foul trouble. "We got their big boy in foul trouble," said Miller. "The first time (a 48-43 Trail win on Jan. 2), that big kid killed us; we couldn't stop him. Getting him in foul trouble was big for us tonight."
Besides Lesher's scoring, Ayden Simms closed with 11 and Eades eight for the Patriots.
Conner Mullins scored nine points and Michael Bragg had eight to pace the Wildcats. Hunter Claypool and Connor grabbed six rebounds each.
On the night, Meadow Bridge was 28.2 percent (11-of-39) from the field and 52 percent (13-of-25) from the foul line.
Midland Trail (7-9) is scheduled to host Liberty on Feb. 11 and Richwood on Feb. 14.
Meadow Bridge was slated to host Pocahontas County on Thursday, Feb. 6, but that game has been postponed to Feb. 24 due to high water. The Wildcats (1-14) are slated to play a WVHIT game at Montcalm on Friday, Feb. 7.
"We've got to rebound better, and we've got to shoot the ball better, which we haven't done all year," Gladwell said.
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Midland Trail 58, Meadow Bridge 39
Meadow Bridge (1-14)
Hunter Claypool 2 1-5 5, Michael Bragg 2 4-5 8, Caidan Connor 0 1-2 1, Rian Cooper 2 2-4 7, Evan McCoin 2 1-2 7, Conner Mullins 2 4-6 9, Nick White 1 0-1 2, Dakota Hayes 0 0-0 0. Totals 11 13-25 39
Midland Trail (7-9)
Matthew Light 0 0-0 0, Indy Eades 3 2-2 8, Aidan Lesher 8 1-4 21, Liam Gill 0 0-0 0, Peyton Sheaves 3 0-2 6, John Paul Morrison 2 0-2 4, Cade Kincaid 0 3-6 3, Bo Persinger 1 1-1 3, Ayden Simms 5 0-0 11, Brendan Zackoski 0 0-0 0, T.C. Perry 1 0-2 2. Totals 23 7-19 58
MB: 14 8 9 8 — 39
MT: 17 13 11 17 — 58
3-point goals — MB: 4 (Cooper, McCoin 2, Mullins); MT: 5 (Lesher 4, Simms). Fouled Out — Connor (MB), Eades (MT).