By J.W. Campbell, Sportswriter
Playing their first home game in Rich Mason Gymnasium since December 21 of last year, the Triad Knights posted a 70-56 victory over the Jersey County Panthers on Friday, February 8.
“This was a good win for us,” Triad Coach Josh Hunt said. “They got us up there in a really tight ball game, so it was good to get them back here at home. We haven’t had a true home game since before Christmas. We did play in “The Barn” at the junior high against Mascoutah (on January 25), but we haven’t been here at the high school since December 21 against Highland. That’s a long time to go without a home game. I think the boys were excited to be back here and we celebrated with a good team effort. I think we really took them out of anything they wanted to do on offensive in the first half. We created havoc with our full-court defense and took them out of any kind of set they wanted to do by turning them over quite a bit. We sped them up above their speed limit.”
The Knights trailed only once in the game. That came with 6:25 left in the first quarter when a basket by Matthew Jackson gave the visitors a 2-0 lead.
Triad followed with a 7-1 run that put the Knights ahead 7-3. The outburst included a triple and a conventional basket by Jonah Ogden and a bucket by Luke Cox.
Over the final three minutes and 15 seconds of the first quarter, Triad would add to its lead, outscoring the Panthers 13-4 to build up a 20-7 edge at the end of the first eight minutes.
In the second quarter, Triad’s lead would fluctuate between nine and 18 points before reaching the intermission with a 34-20 edge.
In the third quarter, Triad established its biggest lead of the night when Michael Tentis and Joe Wade hit back-to-back treys to make it a 47-24 game.
Before the period was over, Jerseyville went on a 6-0 run to pare the Triad lead down to 49-32. During that run, the Panthers got four points from David Rogers and a basket from Jackson.
Although the Panthers were able to make several small runs at the Knights during the fourth quarter, the lead never dropped below double digits as the Knights did an effective job of holding the Panthers at bay.
“We protected the lead well by going 13 of 15 at the free throw line in the second half,” Hunt noted. “That says a lot about our kids willingness to step up and want the ball in key situations. We had three kids in double figures, but our bench was also tremendous, tonight. We didn’t lose anything when they came into the game.”
The Knights got big offensive performances from Luke Cox and Jonah Ogden, who had 20 and 17 points, respectively.
Eleven of Ogden’s points came in the first half, while Cox scored 12 of his 20 in the second half.
Ogden, who attended Triad his freshman year before going to Metro-East Lutheran for his sophomore and junior seasons, returned to Triad for the 2018-2019 season. As the only senior on the team, Ogden said he felt a need to be a team leader, but was initially uncertain about his role with the Knights.
“It was hard to be a leader at first because I was coming back to Triad and I wasn’t sure about my spot,” Ogden said. “Now, I’m definitely sure that it’s my position to be a leader for us.”
Also reaching double digits was Michael Tentis, who collected 10 points in the game.
Jerseyville was led by Tucker Shalley, who scored 18 points. Kurt Hall added 12 tallies for the Panthers, while Jackson scored 10 points for Jerseyville.
With the win, Triad goes to 4-3 in the Mississippi Valley Conference and 10-15 overall. Jerseyville falls to 3-4 in league play and 11-16 for the year.
The Knights shot 44 percent from the field and 38 percent from behind the arc. Triad connected on eight triples, including two each by Ogden and Tentis and one apiece by Drew Straub, Nate Winslow, Wade and Sam Yager.
Triad was scheduled to host Freeburg on Tuesday, February 12. Results of that game were not available at press time.
On Friday, February 15, the Knights are slated to host Civic Memorial in an MVC game. League action is set to continue on Tuesday, February 19 when the Knights take on the Mascoutah Indians in Mascoutah.