HUNTINGTON – When things are going well, 16 minutes does not seem like a significant amount of time.
But when your team is struggling, two quarters of basketball can feel like an eternity.
That is the position that Homestead coach Chris Johnson found himself in on Friday night in the Spartans' Class 4A Huntington North Sectional semifinal game against Wayne. The Generals seemingly couldn't miss from the field in the first half, hitting 65 percent (15-of-23) of their shots to take command of the game.
For Johnson, the wait until halftime was excruciating.
“They hit some tough shots in the first half,” Johnson said. “We thought we would play man (defense) and help out in man a little bit.
“We practiced a bit with the box-and-one but I didn't want to show it right away. We wanted them to have to make adjustments in the second half to it.”
Once Homestead unleashed its box-and-one defense in the second half, it shut down the Wayne offensively enough to steal a 68-56 victory away from the Generals and advance to tonight's championship game against South Side.
Wayne (12-9) scored just 18 points after halftime, including only six in the fourth quarter. The Generals led by as many as 14 in the first half as senior Justin Mitchell blistered the Homestead defense.
“Justin was killing us, I couldn't guard him,” Homestead senior Joe Ault said. “At half, we made a couple of adjustments.”
In addition to the defensive change, Johnson stressed to his team that the Spartans needed to dictate the tempo more. Wayne was able to get out into transition too much in the first half, leading to easy baskets.
“We were playing at the pace that we didn't want to play (at),” Johnson said. “We can't score 70-some points.
“So we wanted to make sure it was at our pace and we were fortunate shots fell for us in the second half and they struggled a bit.”
The game entered the fourth quarter tied at 50, but it took the Generals six minutes and 25 seconds to score their first point of the period. By that time, Homestead was up by 10 and the game was effectively over.
After scoring 15 points in the first half, Mitchell was held to just two in the second half while battling the box-and-one.
For the second half, Wayne shot 6-of-23 (26 percent) from the field.
Sophomore Caleb Swanigan finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds and also picked up his game in the second half.
“Our big fella came in and played like a man in the second half,” Johnson said. “He was loose with the ball a little bit in the first half.”
The entire team for the most part picked it up after the break following the schematic changes.
But holding on in the first half was still an adventure.
“I like this ball club, hopefully they will continue to fight through a little bit of adversity,” Johnson said. “They didn't crumble. They stuck with the plan for the most part and we were able to pull off the victory.”
The Spartans (17-7) are gunning for their second sectional title in three years tonight.
SOUTH SIDE 63, JAY COUNTY 61
The Archers (7-12) erased an 11-point second-half deficit to defeat Jay County and advance to the Class 4A Huntington North Sectional championship set for tonight.
South Side forced 20 Jay County turnovers on the night, several of which came after halftime when the Archers cut into the deficit.
The Patriots (13-8) were able to get plenty of points offensively by driving to the hoop and then passing to a teammate for an easy layup, but South Side made enough plays down the stretch to win.
Jay County had the ball with four seconds left after an Archers turnover with a chance to tie or win, but an errant shot near the baseline was off the mark.
South Side was led by Nate Thomas who had 23 points and Teon Fryar who added 17.
Jay County was paced by Jay Houck and Zach Fullenkamp, who each had 17.
The Archers will play for their first sectional title since 2007.
HOMESTEAD 68, WAYNE 56
Wayne: Levi Mitchell 12, Leshore 20, Thomas 2, Justin Mitchell 17, Smith 2, Robertson 2, Bufkin-Scott 1.
Homestead: Ault 12, Cotter 11, Curry 14, Ray 3, Swanigan 24, Batt 4.
SOUTH SIDE 63, JAY COUNTY 61
Jay County: Dirksen 3, Pryor 5, Schlosser 7, Teagle 12, Houck 17, Fullenkamp 17.
South Side: Fryar 17, Nick Thomas 5, Donovan Clark 9, Masten 9, Nate Thomas 23.