Tyler Durstine

Titusville’s Tyler Durstine (15) drives toward the basket against Warren’s Kody Vega. Durstine led the Rockets with a career-high 12 points on Tuesday.

When a team finds the weakness of their opponent, more often than not they will keep trying to exploit that weakness until an adjustment is made.

The visiting Warren Dragons boys basketball team used its half-court, zone-trap defense to frustrate the Titusville Rocket offense and pull away with a 57-30 Region 5 victory on Tuesday at the Launch Pad.

Dragons senior forward Ben Berdine was 8 of 12 shooting from short range for a game-high 16 points and seven rebounds. Parks Ordiway knocked down a pair of triples en route to 14 points for Warren, who improved to 5-2 overall and 2-2 in the region.

Tyler Durstine led the Rockets (0-5 overall, 0-3 Region 5) with 12 points off the bench, all coming from long distance. Manny Perez and Hunter Titus chipped in eight and six points, respectively.

The Rockets were ahead 2-0 through the initial three minutes of play after a Titus lay-up accounted for the game’s first points. Meanwhile, Titusville’s 2-3 zone defense forced the first five Dragon shot attempts to come up short.

However, Warren switched up its defensive game plan following a put-back from JT Blum that evened the score at 2-all at the 5:00 mark. The Dragons went to a half-court, zone-trap that the Rockets could not find any success against.

Warren held Titusville scoreless the remainder of the period, forcing 11 turnovers in the frame. Those takeaways turned into six transition buckets and many more scoring opportunities, as the Dragons led 24-2 heading into the second quarter.

“It’s the same thing that every team has thrown at us so far,” Titusville coach Craig Mehlenbacher said of the trap. “It seems to be a growing theme. I have some young guards in positions that they’re not used to playing. We’re young and trying to work through it, but we’re so one-dimensional right now. 

“When we catch the ball, we’re looking at one place and staring it down, so even if we do make that pass, the defense is there to pick it off. If it’s not there, we’re staring and we get trapped. We have to be a lot quicker in our decision-making. It’s part of the learning curve.”

Titusville didn’t score again until the 5:40 mark of the second quarter when Perez sank his first of two triples. By then, unfortunately, the Rockets found themselves trailing by 21 points, and they were unable to catch up.

The Rockets ended up falling by 27 points, but there were some positive takeaways for Mehlenbacher and his team on both sides of the ball.

Titusville played what Mehlenbacher called its “best defensive game of the season.” When the Rockets were able to keep the Dragons from getting relatively easier looks in transition, the Titusville zone defense forced Warren to be patient with the basketball and sometimes settle for less than ideal looks at the rim.

On multiple occasions, it would take more than a handful of passes for Warren to take a shot attempt. Mehlenbacher credited the Dragons for their patience after the game, but also was pleased with his team’s effort in their zone.

“I thought our 2-3 zone looked pretty good,” Mehlenbacher said. “The transition hurt us, and Ordiway and (Tommy) Nyquist hit a couple 3’s, but all-in-all, I was pretty happy with how we played and how we were talking. As for Berdine, who is one of the better players in the region, the shots he did make were tough shots. That is a very disciplined team and they move the ball very well. They skip it and have good movement. We knew that going in and I thought our kids handled it well for the most part.”

Durstine’s second-half success from beyond the arc was another highlight for the Rockets. After going 1 for 5 from the field in the first half, the junior guard converted 3 of 5 shot attempts from 3-point range in the final two periods. His 12 total points were a career-high.

“Tyler got his shot back,” Mehlenbacher said. “He can shoot and does it in practice. He’s just been a funk in games, but I’m glad to see he got out of that.”

Tuesday was Titusville’s senior night contest. Prior to the game, seniors Derek Beach, who had three points in the game, and Titus were honored.

Titusville will have a week off before traveling north to Fairview on Tuesday, Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. for a Region 5 contest against the Tigers.

Warren 57, Titusville 30

WARREN (5-3 OVERALL, 2-2 REGION 5)

FGM-FGA FT-FTA PTS: Ordiway 6-10 0-0 14, Borger 0-2 0-0 0, Berdine 8-12 0-0 16, Nyquist 2-4 0-0 6, JT Blum 3-3 0-0 6, Blair 2-7 0-0 4, Vega 2-2 0-0 5, Darling 0-0 0-0 0, Rich 0-0 0-0 0, White 0-1 0-0 0, Greene 3-7 0-4 6. Totals: 26-50 0-4 57.

TITUSVILLE (0-5 OVERALL, 0-3 REGION 5)

FGM-FGA FT-FTA PTS: Perez 3-8 0-0 8, Titus 3-6 0-0 6, Knapp 0-2 1-2 1, Beach 1-3 1-2 3, Wheeling 0-3 0-0 0, Schenberg 0-0 0-0 0, Durstine 4-10 0-0 12, Abrigo 0-1 0-0 0, Thomas 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 11-33 2-4 30.

Score by Quarters

Warren 24 19 8 6 — 57

Titusville 2 11 9 8 — 30

3-point goals — Warren 4-12 (Nyquist 2-3, Ordiway 2-5, Vega 1-1, Blair 0-1, Borger 0-1, White 0-1), Titusville 6-21 (Durstine 4-8, Perez 2-5, Titus 0-1, Wheeling 0-2, Abrigo 0-1, Beach 0-1, Knapp 0-1). Rebounds — Warren 26 (Berdine 7), Titusville 10 (Knapp 3). Turnovers — Warren 10, Titusville 14. Total fouls — Warren 10, Titusville 6.

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