Huntington head coach Ty Platt predicted that his team would experience “growing pains” this season, and the 56-55 finish against Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Platt Arena Dec. 6 was one such event.
After losing to Crossroads League foe Spring Arbor University Dec. 2, the Foresters looked to pick up a win at home against the Cougars. Jumping out to an early 17-8 lead, senior Tyler Ault quietly led his young team with 13 points, draining baskets early on to kick-start the Forester offense. Forester mainstays sophomores Derek Hinen and Daniel Woll added 12 and 11 points respectively.
With minutes left in the first half, HU boasted a 16-point lead. However, Cougar Joey Schmitz would combine with teammates Josh Ashwill and Trey Vaughan to put together an eight-point hot streak in the final seconds of the half.
Starting the second period, Ault would silence the Cougar offensive aggression by laying down a trey.
“I’m just trying to stay composed and show that leadership that Coach [Platt] is looking for,” Ault said. “As a senior this is my fourth year here, and I’ve played in a lot of games, [but there are] a lot of young guys that are still learning and understanding the concept of the Crossroads League and how every game’s a grind.”
Freshman Austin Clark, who returned to the court after sitting the first few games due to injury, had a notable showing in the contest, grabbing a team-high seven rebounds. Clark is aware of the high level of play expected of him.
“I knew coming in when I was recruited that the Crossroads League was one of the top leagues in NAIA basketball, and you just need to come ready to play every single game,” he said.
Cougar scoring leader senior Martell Medley, who recorded 17 points, helped orchestrate a nine-point scoring run with seven minutes remaining. After missing a critical offensive rebound, the Foresters would allow Mount Vernon’s Jordi Mas to tie the game at 51 even.
In an intense final two minutes of game play, Kyle Pipenger and Woll would each land a layup. Mount Vernon would answer with Bryan Redic making his two-point shot. After a missed free-throw attempt by HU’s Clark, Mount Vernon’s Medley sunk the deadly trey which would finish the Foresters. Inbounding the ball in the final seconds, HU could not pull off a buzzer beater to steal the win.
Platt believes there were positives to pull away from the “learning experience” for his young team.
“We shared the ball really well, and made the extra pass,” Platt said. “We did that a lot better than we had previously. I thought defensively we did a nice job with our switching. It came down to that we just needed one more rebound and one more stop.”
Despite it being a “good learning game” for the team, Ault said the loss was still hard to handle.
“This game [left a] sour taste in our mouths,” he said. “We’ll learn from this and take certain things away for when we play those top [Crossroads League] teams. Hopefully, we won’t make some of the mistakes [we did today]. If we play hard, we can compete with anybody.”
The Foresters, now 9-3 overall and 1-2 in Crossroads League play, will have a long break before seeing action again Dec. 20 at home against Grace Bible College.