WASHINGTON — Two unheralded players stepped up for their teams in a Southeast Conference boys basketball game Friday.
Fairfield’s Myles McEntee scored nearly half of the Trojans points and Washington’s Travis Leyden stepped up as a valuable defender.
Defense makes the difference in games and Washington scored a 61-45 win over Fairfield.
Max Weaton scored 10 points in the first quarter for Fairfield and finished with 14. He had 25 in the first meeting.
Washington head coach Collin Stark was happy with the Demons defensive change against Weaton. Lucas Kroll would stay in front of Weaton and then Trashaun Willis would come in from the help side. Willis played him alone the first game. “I was questioning our defense in the first quarter but we did better in the rest of the game. That change I thought took them out of their sorts a little bit.”
While the change kept Weaton’s scoring down, McEntee took advantage.
“Number 21 sure had a great game,” Stark said. “Most of his points were from driving right. I wish we had someone step up and realize that and force him left. Kudos to him for having a great game.”
McEntee had 20 points on 7-of-9 field goal shots and 6-of-9 at the free-throw line.
“He played great, just great,” Fairfield coach Mick Flattery said. “He is a kid that has been in the shadows, but he just continues to get stronger. When he’s got the ball, he drives what we called downhill in basketball. He just heads straight to the basket. He’s been playing like that but lost some time due to Covid.”
While it was good to see the breakout game from McEntee, Flattery did not like the fact that two players scored 76 percent of the points. Five other players scored totaling 11 points. The result was much like Tuesday’s Fort Madison loss when Weaton and Tate Allen combined for 83 percent of the points.
“To have just two guys do our scoring for us, it’s not good,” Flattery said. “We have to have more balance.”
Washington got 19 points from Ethan Patterson, 14 from Kasen Bailey, 10 from Kroll, eight from Willis, four each from Lance Sobaski and Leyden and two from Zac Stout.
“To compete in this league we have to have balance, and play tough,” Flattery said. “we are a young team and we are learning the idiosyncrasies of getting your head beat in, Then getting back up and taking it again.”
Leyden did a great job of getting back up repeatedly after diving to save a ball, or jumping into the passing lane or snatching a steal. He had four rebounds and three steals, knocked away other passes and provided an immeasurable amount of hustle.
“I wasn’t hitting my shots, so I had to make up for that,” Leyden said. “I had to do what I could to help my team out on the other end.”
In the third quarter, Leyden took two 3-pointers early in possessions. “He knew I wasn’t very happy,” Stark said. “So then he got some steals and was really hustling. There was a streak defensively where he made a difference. He is a very athletic and understands our defense so having him on the floor makes our defense better.”
Maybe missing shots leads to more inspired defense? “Well I like to play defense no matter what,” Leyden said. “Missing shots does give me the energy to try to get the ball back to make up for it and help my team score.”
The Demons connected on two dunks in the game, Willis got an assist from Bailey and threw one down for a 10-4 lead, sparking a timeout from Fairfield. Bailey provided his own stuff with a minute, 30 left in the game.
Washington is 6-3 overall, 4-1 in the SEC. Fairfield is 1-4, 0-3.
Washington plays at Notre Dame in Burlington tonight while Fairfield hosts PCM.
“Role players that are good, you got to love,” Stark said, mentioning Kroll’s seven rebounds, four steals, two blocks and an assist. “They bought into the roles and when they are buying, that’s when good things happen. It’s good to see.”