YOUNGSVILLE — Entering Friday’s season opener, the Maplewood Tigers boys basketball team was focused on stealing a victory away from the homestanding Youngsville Eagles. With three senior starters out for the Eagles, the Tigers took advantage and earned a scrappy 45-43 Region 2 win to start the campaign on a positive note.
Brandon Snell erupted for a career-high 22 points, going 5 of 10 from long distance, while Logan Kennedy chipped in 12 points to help pace the Tigers (1-0). Connor Burns collected 10 rebounds, while Luke Sleeman contributed three points and eight rebounds.
Ethan Kesterholt scored six of his team-high 14 points in the first quarter, as Youngsville (0-1) opened up the game with a 15-7 lead at the end of the initial period. Timber Bower and Carson Chase added nine points a piece, as Dominic Dell totaled seven points and eight rebounds.
Coming into the season with a fresh starting five and the limited practice time due to the pandemic and recently lifted state restrictions, the Tigers were understandably slow out of the gate. Youngsville used its drive-and-kick offense to tally the first two buckets of the contest and eventually pull ahead 15-7 at the end in the first.
In the opening eight minutes, Maplewood struggled from the field, going 3 for 15, but Tigers head coach Shawn Rhoades wasn’t shocked by the rust of his players.
“We started off slow, but we expected that,” Rhoades said. “We’ve started and then stopped a few times, and then we had four days to get ready. Youngsville is a good ball club. They’re scrappy and all of them can shoot. It was one of those deals where we had to weather the storm.”
The second quarter started with a bang — coming in the form of the first of Snell’s five 3-pointers in the contest. Snell, who only connected on one 3-pointer and tallied five points total last season, sparked the Tigers toward their best period of the night. Capping off a 13-4 run to start the frame, Snell nailed his third straight triple in that span to give the Tigers their first lead of the evening, 20-19 at the 4:40 mark.
Even though Snell played in just eight games as a sophomore last season, the junior guard wasn’t afraid of stepping up to start the new year.
“I knew I could shoot,” Snell said. “I just got open shots, kept shooting and got in a groove. Once I hit those first two, I really had the confidence to keep shooting and making them. I knew I had to step up with losing seven seniors. I had to play big in big moments.”
With a battle now at hand, both teams exchanged a couple of buckets as the half came to an end. Youngsville freshman Chase hit a triple of his own with just 40 ticks left on the clock, but the Tigers had the last laugh at the half when Ethan Peterson’s lay-up and first varsity bucket put Maplewood ahead by one, 26-25, at the intermission.
Out of the break, Maplewood continued to build on its momentum, scoring the first seven points of the third period. The Tigers later went up 39-27 with 4:12 remaining in the quarter for their largest lead of the night.
“We took care of the ball, and got good shots and made them,” Rhoades said. “We executed well in those two middle periods.”
However, turnovers started to plague the Tigers in the latter minutes of the quarter. Youngsville made a run of its own, putting the final nine points up to trim its deficit to 39-36 heading into the fourth quarter.
Down the stretch, points were hard to come by for each team. Maplewood turned the ball over six times in the final period, while Youngsville missed 9 of 12 fourth-quarter shots.
Nevertheless Chase’s third triple of the game gave the Eagles its first lead of the second half, 43-42, with just over a minute left to play. Maplewood then responded with a Sleeman post bucket which gave the Tigers the lead back with 40 seconds remaining.
After a full timeout taken by Youngsville, the Eagles were unable to make a shot from long distance, and the ensuing rebound was gathered by Kennedy. The Tiger junior was sent to the free throw line in a 1-and-1 scenario, and he made the front end of the pair to put Maplewood ahead 45-43 with 6.7 seconds remaining.
Youngsville used another full timeout in hopes of drawing up a play to force overtime or win the game, but it was to no avail. Bower’s 3-point attempt at the horn fell short and Maplewood earned the two-point victory.
Although Rhoades wasn’t completely satisfied with his team’s performance, he was happy that they came away with the win.
“The middle two quarters, I think we executed,” Rhoades said. “Part of it is the game is faster moving from JV to varsity. It will take some time getting used to it. But, any time you can get a win in this region, it’s huge.”
With only the teams, coaches, media and game officials in attendance for Friday’s affair, the scene was much more low key than normal. In what felt like a simple scrimmage, it was hard at times for the players and coaches to keep up the intensity of a regular season and region contest.
“It’s different,” Rhoades said. “With a young group, it was probably good for us to not have a hostile or opposing crowd. They focused more on playing the game than things like that. It’s definitely going to take some getting used to.”
Maplewood will host Fort LeBoeuf on Monday in non-region action for its home opener. JV tips at 6 p.m. with varsity to follow.
Maplewood 45, Youngsville 43
MAPLEWOOD (1-0 OVERALL, 1-0 REGION 2)
FGM-FGA FTM-FTA PTS: Donor 2-8 0-1 4, Kennedy 5-14 1-4 12, Burns 1-3 0-0 2, Snell 7-13 3-5 22, Sleeman 1-6 1-2 3, Holcomb 0-4 0-0 0, Peterson 1-2 0-0 2, Doolittle 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 17-50 5-12 45.
YOUNGSVILLE (0-1 OVERALL, 0-1 REGION 2)
FGM-FGA FTM-FTA PTS: Dell 3-6 1-1 7, Kesterholt 7-12 0-0 14, Bower 4-12 0-2 9, Hendrickson 2-5 0-2 4, Chase 3-8 0-0 9, Hill 0-2 0-0 0, Mesel 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 19-46 1-5 43.
Score by Quarters
Maplewood 7 19 13 6 — 45
Youngsville 15 10 11 7 — 43
3-point goals — Maplewood 6-25 (Snell 5-10, Kennedy 1-7, Donor 0-4, Holcomb 0-3, Peterson 0-1), Youngsville 4-17 (Chase 3-8, Bower 1-5, Hill 0-2, Hendrickson 0-1, Kesterholt 0-1). Rebounds — Maplewood 38 (Burns 10), Youngsville 25 (Dell 8). Turnovers — Maplewood 14, Youngsville 10. Total fouls — Maplewood 8, Youngsville 10. Fouled out — Dell. Technical fouls — Dell, Bower.