Mars attacks, conquers Knoch in Section 1-AAA showdown
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Mars coach Rob Carmody is aware that visiting teams often have problems winning at Knoch, dating back to his days as a North Catholic athlete.
But any concern was wiped away quickly as the first-place Planets rolled to a convincing 75-46 Section 1-AAA victory before a huge crowd at Knoch.
Mars, ranked second in the Trib Total Media Class AAA poll, is 12-2 overall and 6-0 in section play. Knoch slipped to 8-5, 3-3.
The Planets jumped out to a 21-1 lead at the end of one quarter and led, 39-11, at the half.
“This game is a product of those guys in the locker room,” Carmody said. “I would love to say I have some special speech. Our senior guys were focused tonight. You could see it when we walked into the gym. They know the nature of this rivalry.”
Defense and offensive rebounding carried the Planets in their victory.
In Knoch's first four possessions, the Planets forced three turnovers and 6-foot-8 center Josh Goetz blocked a Knights shot.
Five Mars players scored the team's first five field goals.
“They made their first couple of shots, and that's the last thing we needed,” Knights coach Ron McNabb said.
“That was a big hole we got into. A lot of their shots were uncontested, and we got lost defensively.”
Knoch didn't register a field goal until the 6:22 mark of the second quarter when Dakota Bruggeman finally found the range.
“They're well-coached, and we knew coming in that they have size, they have speed and they execute their stuff very well,” McNabb said. “We didn't shoot the ball well, and I think that bothers us on the defensive end.”
Two of Knoch's leading scorers, Austin Miller and David Gallagher, were held scoreless in the first half.
Junior Owen Nearhoff led a balanced scoring attack with 19 points, with Mitchell Buzzard adding 17.
“This is one of the best high school environments to play in,” Carmody said. “They have a great pep band, the fans are going back and forth, and our guys don't want to play in a gym with six people in it. They want to be rewarded with a big crowd.”
With a solid 12-2 mark, Carmody cautioned about anyone getting overconfident. Two players who provide depth, Zach May and Alex Locher, are recovering from injuries. May played sparingly Tuesday.
Nearhoff, who has been hurt much of the season, is just getting back to full strength.
“We're not in the playoffs yet,” Carmody said.
The magic number for Mars to make the playoffs is three. Any combination of Mars wins and Knoch losses puts the Planets in the WPIAL playoffs for the sixth year in a row.
Garrett Ashbaugh had 13 points for Mars. Matt Getsy checked in with 12.
“We spent all Saturday and all Monday trying to prepare for them,” McNabb said. “Goetz inside has improved tremendously since last year. Their guards are string, physical and quick.”
Goetz led Mars with 11 rebounds.
One bright spot for Knoch was the play of 6-foot-4 sophomore Matt Zanella, who came off the bench to score 12 points.
Bruggeman led the Knights with 14 points.
Knoch will try to get back on the winning track with two road games — Friday at Freeport and Tuesday at Kittanning.
George Guido is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.