By RJ Walters / Daily News Sports Editor
As published on Feb. 11, 2009 in the Hillsdale Daily News
Nick Kelley didn’t like the taste last Friday’s road loss to Lansing Christian left in his mouth — so he decided to take action.
Despite picking up two fouls in the first two minutes Tuesday the Hillsdale senior was efficient and consistent all night long in the post, helping anchor the Hornets 74-52 non-conference win over Onsted.
Kelley struggled to contain Lansing Christian’s 6-6 star Mickey DeVries Friday, but Tuesday he pulled down 14 rebounds and scored 11 of his 17 points in the second quarter to help his team.
“At the Lansing Christian game I played terrible and I actually texted all my teammates and told them I was really sorry for losing game and I was going to work hard so it didn’t happen again,” Kelley said. “I took a personal challenge that I was not going to get out-worked by a center again. It was kind of my whole weekend ruined.”
Tuesday could have been ruined, when the Hornets let the Wildcats cut a 20-point lead to seven by the end of three quarters, but Kelley and fellow senior Mitchell Gabriele amped up the intensity once more in the final quarter to seal the deal.
Hornet head coach Brad Felix was extremely pleased with Kelley’s play.
“I thought he played one of his best games of the year tonight, just for the fact he finished shots. I’m sure he’s had as many points as he had tonight another time this year but he got them on a lot less shots. I thought he did a good job of playing in the second quarter,” he said. “We put him at the eight-minute mark and we were hoping he could get to the two-minute mark without fouling and making a difference on the offensive end. He did just that.”
Onsted had a post-presence of their own at The Hive as Braxton Southwell scored 17 points (13 in the second half) and added 10 boards and five blocks, but the two big guys weren’t matched up for a lot of the evening.
Out on the wing Hornet senior Scott Lantis made a difference, draining four 3-pointers en rout to a game-high 20 points, and he seems to have kicked his little bout of shooting woes from January aside.
Gabriele struggled a bit with his shot, but started finding teammates more and more as the game wore on. Felix said his leader needs to learn how to do that for entire contests.
“We keep chirping at him and he needs to realize the defense is going to collapse around him because of the type of player he is this year,” he said. “He needs to realize he makes our other guys so much better with his drive-and-kick. When those guys start hitting those shots then he’ll get his.”
Gabriele finished the evening with 15 points and nine assists.
What made more of a difference than anything in Felix’s opinion was the Hornets high-pressure full-court defense. They forced 20 turnovers on the evening, which helped them jump out to a 17-4 first quarter lead and made it difficult for the Wildcats to run plays from their half-court sets.
“For once I thought our pressure gave us some points and we got some deflections,” Felix said. “Onsted had some nice set plays that we saw on film that quite frankly we couldn’t run, until they did a little bit in the second half.”
The second half was when the Wildcats drew close, with the help of three 3-pointers from guard Carl Reams, but Felix called a timeout out, reamed his guys out for their poor man-to-man defense and everything settled down.
“In the fourth quarter we righted the ship though, we got better. Baby steps, and hopefully by March we’ll be playing defense more consistently,” Felix said.
The Hornets now have two days to get ready for a home game against league foe Parma Western, a team that beat them by double-digits just a few weeks ago.
Kelley said the guys are hungry and everyone knows this game is vital to their goal of winning a league championship.
“We’re just going to work on that Wednesday and Thursday by playing some 6-on-5 and working on taking care of the ball and do smart passes,” he said referring to Western’s high-pressure man-to-man scheme. “We have some mismatches and we need to exploit that, kind of unlike we did last game.”