Mars' tough defense rocks Knoch in 59-35 victory
While Hampton, Indiana and New Castle received much of the early hype in Class AAA, Mars has been putting together a stellar season.
Knoch got a first-hand look at what Mars can do on their home court Friday.
The Planets employed a devastating matchup zone that forced 31 turnovers and created several scoring droughts for Knoch, as Mars rolled to a 59-35 victory in Section 1-AAA play.
Mars (13-1, 6-0) is fourth in this week's Class AAA rankings and is seventh in one statewide poll.
“I was happy to see our guys play in a tough environment like this,” Planets coach Rob Carmody said. “I knew we had some athletes coming into the season. I knew we had some talent. But we still have a young team, and you never know how they're going to respond in tough situations.”
For Knoch (7-5, 4-2), it was the worst possible scenario to open the game.
After scoring the game's first basket, sophomore Austin Hannes tried for a steal but suffered an injury. He had his knee wrapped in ice after the game.
Plus, senior forward Troy Hixson picked up two early fouls and had to come off the floor, further disrupting Knoch's rotation.
“Austin's been getting better every game, better in every practice,” Knights coach Ron McNabb said. “He really understands what it takes to be a player. You saw the first (defensive) play of the game how he got high off the floor. It hurt us, and my heart breaks for him.”
“Austin's a terrific lead guard, and those guys just don't grow on trees,” Carmody said.
John Castello led Mars with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Matt Zanella and Jackson McKee scored 10 each for the Knights, and Zanella had nine rebounds.
Mars didn't leave unscathed. Starting guard Alex Gruber suffered a broken nose.
“Mars and Knoch could be playing table tennis, and it's going to be a rough, grind-it-out environment,” Carmody said.
George Guido is a freelance writer.