After gaining a 25-22 halftime lead, the Knights fell victim to a second half filled with missed free throws and layups en route to losing their first Heart of Illinois Conference matchup 55-43 to the Turks.
"We've got to get games like this if we want to get to where we want to get to," Blue Ridge coach Kyle Watson said. "If it's worth a loss in November to learn from it to get wins in February and March, as much as I hate to say it, we'll take it. But I wish we'd learn these lessons already so we don't have to lose these games right now."
Travys Nichols (pictured above) was the Knights' leading scorer with 11 points, including eight in the first half. After falling behind 15-11 early in the second quarter, Blue Ridge went on a 6-0 run to take a 17-15 lead.
From there, the Knights never trailed in the first half. Michael Plunk (pictured below), who scored all five of his points in the first half, gave Blue Ridge a 25-20 lead by completing a three-point play with two minutes left in the second quarter.
"There were some times where we showed a lot of heart," Watson said. "We did some nice things. We had a real nice first half."
From there, Tremont picked up its pressure on the defensive end, allowing only eight points in the third quarter and 18 for the entire second half.
"We knew they were going to come out and pressure us, so we wanted to screen away and have the pickers open up and come back to the ball and hit the picker if they're pressuring the wings as hard as they were," Watson said. "Also, if they're pressuring the wings, we'll hit the post and have the wings back-door cut. When they picked up their pressure in the second half, we just didn't do that as much as we did in the first half, and that's when they made their runs. Give them all the credit; they're a very skilled basketball team. They have a couple of players who've played varsity for two or three years, and their experience showed a little bit more than ours tonight."
As a team, Blue Ridge finished the game shooting 14-of-26 from the free-throw line, including 2-of-4 in the third quarter and 4-of-10 in the fourth.
"We lost by 12 and missed 12 free throws," Watson said. "I told them after the game, free throws and layups. We preach it all the time. We do layup drills in practice; try to get so many layups in a certain amount of time period, try to put a game intensity to it. Until we start seeing how many we need to be making in practice, unfortunately, those key situations, we're going to miss some games. We make 15 free throws every day in practice. Some kids come in during the mornings and make some extra free throws. I hate to say this after a loss, but maybe this might open some people's eyes to see that we need to have more people come in to make some free throws in the mornings."
With Tucker Johnson still on the bench with an ankle injury, the Knights' bench stepped up to provide quality minutes. Josh Plunk was Blue Ridge's second-leading scorer with eight points.
Trenor Hildreth scored a point off the bench and stole the ball three times.
"We had some good energy off our bench again tonight," Watson said. "Trenor Hildreth gave us some good minutes off the bench. Josh Plunk was our second-leading scorer coming off the bench with eight [points]. We've got some guys off the bench coming up with some good minutes. When Tucker goes down, that doesn't help, but it's an opportunity for other guys to step up."
Tremont's Blake Uhlman was the leading scorer of the game, finishing with 19 points. He scored 17 of those points in the second half and shot 7-of-8 from the foul line in the fourth quarter.
"He's a great player," Watson said. "He was out all of last year with an injury. He played varsity as a sophomore. He's a tough competitor; he's a tough kid and a great kid. Very nice young man."
With the loss, Blue Ridge falls to 2-4 overall and 0-1 in the HOIC. The Knights will host a conference matchup against Heyworth on Tuesday.
Trenor Hildreth 0 1-2 1, Michael Plunk 2 1-2 5, Mark Plunk 1 2-8 4, Will Duggins 0 0-0 0, Dylan Grammer 0 0-0 0, Jon Jones 1 2-2 5, Johnney Bruden 0 1-2 1, C.J. Bishop 0 0-0 0, Daniel Gilbert 0 0-0 0, Clint O'Neal 2 2-2 6, Travys Nichols 4 3-6 11, Josh Plunk 3 2-2 8, Matt White 1 0-0 2. Totals 14 14-26 43
Hunter Hoskinson 0 0-0 0, Luke Wagenbach 1 0-0 3, Sam Stuber 0 0-0 0, Bryce Breeden 0 0-0 0, Cole Dill 1 1-3 3, Caleb Pflederer 3 1-3 7, Blake Uhlman 6 7-8 19, Sammy Bollinger 3 1-3 8, Lucas Gibson 1 2-3 4, Cody Herbst 2 3-4 7, Jerry Herbst 1 2-2 4. Totals 18 17-26 55
Blue Ridge 11 14 8 10 -- 43
Tremont 13 9 16 17 -- 55
3-pointers -- Blue Ridge (Jones). Tremont 2 (Wagenbach, Bollinger).
For Blue Ridge, O'Neal had 7 rebounds*, 1 steal. Nichols had 6 rebounds*, 1 block. Jones had 3 rebounds*. Hildreth had 3 steals, 1 rebound*.
JV -- Tremont 60, Blue Ridge 30.
(Blue Ridge -- 2-4, 0-1 Heart of Illinois; next: Tuesday vs. Heyworth.)
*- A player may have one more rebound than I gave him credit for.