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Mt. Pleasant uses strong transition game to beat Highlands

| Monday, Dec. 10, 2012, 10:46 p.m.
Mt. Pleasant's Luke Liprando (12) tries to drive past Highlands' Aquelay Frison (42) during the first half of Monday's game. Lori Padilla/For the Daily Courier

One of the things that Mt. Pleasant boys basketball coach Tony Splendore is trying to impress upon his team is that a quick transition game will lead to success.

On Monday, Splendore's point was validated as the Vikings converted numerous turnovers by visiting Highlands into fast and easy breakaway layups on their way to a dominating, 60-43 nonsection victory.

“That's what we're trying to do this year,” Splendore said, noting that when his team pulls down a defensive rebound, he doesn't want them to walk the ball up the court. “We're trying to push it up and make the other team try to get back. We're looking to run, and that's a change from what it was in the past.”

Splendore, who is in his first year of his second stint as Mt. Pleasant's coach, certainly was pleased with the way the team executed against the Golden Rams (0-3).

“I was happy at times with how we played,” Splendore said. “We had some fouls we didn't need to commit, but I'm pleased with the effort.”

The Vikings (1-2) spotted Highlands an early 4-0 lead, then took control. Luke Liprando, who finished with 11 points, hit a couple of shots early to get Mt. Pleasant going. Then, in the second quarter, Cody Monroe buried a pair of 3-pointers. Marcus Malara (nine points) and Ryan Gumbita (eight points) were tough inside, and each scored points in the paint to help the Vikings build a 33-17 lead at the half.

The Vikings began to pull away in the second half by forcing turnovers and running the floor. Monroe and Tyler Mellors (six points) each got up and down the court in transition.

Eight Mt. Pleasant players scored, with Monroe's 14-point effort leading the way.

“I think Cody was a big spark for us, and he shot the ball better than I've seen him shoot since he was in seventh or eighth grade,” Splendore said.

For the Golden Rams, the game represented a chance for a young team to gain some experience. Allan Cratsenberg led Highlands with 13 points, and Kaison Branch was next with eight points.

“We have an extremely inexperienced team,” Highlands coach Tyler Stoczynski said. “We have to try to get better every game, but I'm glad I have a team that plays hard. We turned the ball over a little too much, but that will get better with game experience.”

The Vikings hope to use the game as a springboard.

“Hopefully, we can build on this and get on a roll,” Splendore said. “It's nice to get that first win.”

Jason Black is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jblack@tribweb.com or 724-626-3534.

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