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Holmes guides Knights to back-to-back wins

BY JACOB RUDE - sports@wabashplaindealer.com

WABASH — As is the nature of an inexperienced, growing team, some nights are hot and some nights are cold. Coming off a cold game on Tuesday in a loss to Rochester, the Southwood boys’ basketball team was red-hot at home against Madison-Grant on Thursday.

Behind Dallas Holmes’ fourth 30-point performance of the season and a stifling defense, the Knights earned an 80-53 win over the Argylls.

“It’s easier to walk in here…and we’re comfortable,” Southwood head coach John Burrus said.” We just played a game Tuesday night and it’s kind of like you get in a little bit of a rhythm and the things you struggle with on Tuesday night maybe aren’t here as much in this game because of the style of the game.

“Rochester was kind of a methodical team…but this game was a pretty typical Southwood basketball game. The way that we defended…has kind of been one of our trademarks of our program. We’re going to play defense and we’re going to be good. That’s going to be a key for us.”

The Knights shot out of the gate, opening up a 12-2 lead with eight of those points coming from Holmes. After Madison-Grant closed the gap to 14-8, a barrage of baskets from Gabe Lloyd to close the first sent the Knights ahead 25-8.

“You can’t get off to starts like that against any team,” Madison-Grant head coach Brian Trout said. “It’s too hard and too far to come back. I told the guys after the game that right now, I question whether they want to be a good basketball team or not. It’s what it comes down to. You want to do the things you have to do to win games on the road, which we’ve been able to do.

“When we did what we worked on, it looked pretty good. But the rest of the time, we just played soft. We knew coming in that Southwood was really aggressive defensively and physical. We knew that coming in and we just don’t match it right now. Until we do, we’re going to struggle with teams that play physical with us.”

Lloyd buried back-to-back threes before finishing a layup at the rim. The junior’s 11-0 run was capped off with his deepest three-pointer of the night to push the hosts ahead by 17 points. The Argylls briefly cut into the lead in the second, using a run of six unanswered points to pull within 10 at 30-20.

Lloyd and Holmes, though, restored the advantage, first with a Lloyd three-pointer before Holmes knocked down a trio of free throws after being fouled on a three-point attempt. Holmes closed the half with a finish around the rim to send Southwood into the locker room up 38-20.

After Southwood quickly extended the lead to 20 points, the guests again used a run to get back in the contest. Isaac Cooper would miss a chance at a three-point play after missing the free throw but the Argylls would grab the offensive rebound before eventually finding Kaden Howell for a corner three-pointer. Howell had a shot at his own three-point play but failed to convert the free throw, but the 8-0 run cut the lead down to 45-33.

“We executed a lot better,” Trout said of the third-quarter run. “We just played a lot harder defensively to start our with and made a little bit of a run. When you have to use every little bit of energy you have to try to get back in it and then when the other finally makes another run, it’s hard to get another stop because you’ve used up all your energy. And when you bury yourself in a hole like that, it changes everything that you can do in a game and it changes everything they can do.”

The lead would bounce between 12 and 15 points for much of the remainder of the quarter before a personal 6-0 run from Jackson Simons in the final minute for Southwood sent the lead back to 19 points.

The Knights iced the game in the fourth with an early 12-0 run that turned a 58-41 lead into a 68-41 advantage. Holmes poured in 12 points in the final period for his game-high 32 points to go along with nine rebounds, six steals, five assists and three blocks.

Defensively, the Knights limited Madison-Grant for much of the night, holding the guests to just two three-pointers while keeping Grant Brown, Madison-Grant’s second-leading scorer, off the scorebook entirely on the night.

“I liked the fact that we made them make tough plays to score,” Burrus said. “They only shot 12 free throws, they only made two threes when we’re playing zone the whole game. There’s a lot of things there that are head-shaking or head-snapping…where you’re just like ‘How’s this team 7-10.’ But there’s a lot of things, when you’re young like we are, that you have to bring together. You have to get experience in a lot of different situations.”

Lloyd finished with 14 points to follow Holmes while Carson Rich had 13.

For Madison-Grant, Cooper had 14 while Dillon Sneed and Howell had 10 points apiece. All 10 of Howell’s points came in the third quarter for the Argylls.

With a conference title likely out of the Knights grasp as Tuesday’s loss dropped Southwood to 3-4 in the Three Rivers Conference, the focus for Burrus’ side has switched to the postseason.

“We want to get to .500 and take our chances in the sectional,” Burrus said. “(Lafayette) Central Catholic is a team I feel like we can compete with. We’re pushing toward the sectional. And I think one thing you have to say about most teams we’ve had here at Southwood is they get better the second-half of the year. 

“I think that’s a credit to the County Tournament. I think that’s an advantage in Wabash County that we have. This county this year has been great preparation for the rest of our schedule. That’s, I think, helped us this year a lot grow up, just the tough county games.”

On Friday, Holmes poured in 30 points, including 18 points in the first quarter, to guide the Knights to a double overtime win over Maconaquah, 73-66.

Individual stats from the game were unavailable as of Plain Dealer deadline.