Mt. Pleasant boys basketball team turns to defense to get first victory

Friday, December 16, 2022 | 10:42 PM

Mt. Pleasant recently put an extended 2-3 zone defense to use and was starting to see its merits heading into Friday night’s nonsection boys basketball game at rival Southmoreland.

“We were just wondering when our offense was going to come around,” Vikings coach T.J. Kravits said. “Tonight, it finally did.”

Yukon Daniels returned after missing two games with an injury and scored a career-high 21 points to pace Mt. Pleasant to its first win of the season, 55-53 over the Scotties before a sizeable crowd in Alverton.

“This was amazing,” said Daniels, who mainly played junior varsity last year. “We wouldn’t want to get our first win against anyone else.”

The Vikings (1-5), desperate for a win, fired in eight 3-pointers to hand the Scotties (4-1) their first loss. The zone was effective in forcing the Scotties into miscues.

“We have guys who can shoot it,” Kravits said. “So it’s tough to key one one guy. It was nice to get Yukon back. Connor (Pavlocak) stepped up in a more meaningful role. (Brayden) Caletri has been solid all year.”

The Scotties’ big scorer, Ty Keffer, injured his ankle with 4 minutes, 25 seconds to play in the second quarter. He did not return.

Keffer, who had a 45-point game earlier in the season, had 11 at the time of his setback. He tested the ankle as he walked around behind the team bench but said it was painful to put pressure on it.

“Mentally, it was a boost for us,” Kravits said of Keffer’s departure. “For them, it was just as deflating, I’m sure. We lost (top scorer) Dante Giallonardo (early in the year), so we know how tough it can be.”

Another starter, Wyatt Richter, also did not play for Southmoreland.

Daniels, who scored 10 in the second quarter, had three 3s, and Pavlocak had two, including one from the corner with 58.1 seconds remaining to make it 53-50.

Lemont Rogers and Chase McCloy had one 3 apiece. McCoy finished with 13 points, and Brayden Caletri added 10.

The game saw 12 lead changes and four ties before the Vikings finally went ahead late in the fourth.

McCloy made a pair of free throws with 43.5 seconds to play to make it 55-50.

Noah Felentzer knocked in a corner 3 for the Scotties with about 20 seconds remaining to cut it to 55-53.

But just as quickly as the Scotties forced a turnover on the ensuing possession, they turned it back over with 17.1 to go.

Mt. Pleasant ran out the clock from there.

“We had turnovers throughout and zero defense,” Southmoreland coach Frank Muccino said. “We couldn’t stay in front of our shadow tonight. We made poor decisions and panicked.”

Elijah Myers led the Scotties with 18 points, including three 3s and 16 in the second half.

The teams combined for 14 3-pointers, eight from Mt. Pleasant, and made six in a row — four by the Vikings — in a back-and-forth third quarter.

After Myers hit a 3 to give Southmoreland a 36-35 edge, McCloy answered with one of his own as the Vikings took a 40-38 lead into the fourth.

The Vikings took a 46-40 lead before Myers’ floater tied it 46-46 with 3:45 to play.

Mt. Pleasant’s start was a good omen. The Vikings won the tip, then proceeded to take a 7-0 lead before Southmoreland pulled even at 13-13.

Mt. Pleasant led at halftime 25-22.

“Mt. Pleasant was the better team tonight,” Muccino said. “Losing Ty was big. He is a smart player and plays with a slow heart. We lost a leader with the ball in his hands. Someone else needed to step up.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .

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