It took a change of defensive strategy, but once the Fairview Warriors made the switch Friday night, a tight game at Bay turned into a rout.
Five Warriors scored in double figures, led by senior forward Noah Mesaros’ 19-point, 11-rebound double-double, and the Great Lakes Conference leaders finished off an 86-59 victory over the Rockets. It was Fairview’s 12th-consecutive victory.
Luke Howes and Martin Lowry each scored 15 points for the Warriors, who also got 11 from Marty Rehor and 10 off the bench from Ryan Eckert. Howes and Lowry finished with eight and seven rebounds, respectively, with Howes adding a team-high seven assists.
Mesaros’ 11 rebounds unofficially set a new school record for career rebounds.
“It’s pretty cool,” Mesaros said. “I’ve been working at it a lot. Rebounding’s something I pride myself in. We’re undersized for pretty much all four years I’ve been here, so I’ve been the guy when it comes to rebounding for the last three years now. I just try to grab as many as possible because it helps our team win.”
While the Warriors’ offense has been strong this season, the defense made the biggest difference Friday. The first quarter ended with the teams tied at 14-14.
The Warriors (12-1, 9-0 GLC) opened the game using full-court pressure but were often beaten by a combination of smart Rockets passing and the shooting of Ashton Price, who had eight of his 19 points in the first quarter.
In the second period, the Warriors switched to a half-court zone and double-teamed Price around the 3-point line, slowing the Rockets’ once-humming offense to a crawl.
“We’ve played with (the zone) a little bit, pepper it in here and there,” Warriors coach Ryan Barry said. “We knew if we made (Bay) work for it, our athleticism could work in the half-court. We thought if we could shrink down the court we could give them some headaches.”
Price was scoreless in the second quarter, and the Warriors closed the half on an 18-4 run to go ahead 41-23. They continued to use the zone and put together a pair of 7-0 runs to increase their lead to 67-36 in the third period, then led by as many as 32 points in the final quarter.
“(Bay) was breaking our pressure and getting looks that we didn’t want them to get, so we switched up to a zone to see how they’d react to that,” Mesaros said. “Our zone just started turning them over and we just ran with the zone.”
Cullen Gergye scored 17 points to go with five rebounds and three blocks for the Rockets (5-7, 4-5 GLC), and Sam Houk had seven points and a team-high 10 rebounds.
“(Fairview) has a very experienced team, so when they need to turn it up, they can turn it up,” Rockets assistant coach Scott Sharp said. “Right now, we kind of lack that, but I thought we gained a lot of experience tonight. We have five guys starting who didn’t start last year, so we’re getting experience and we’re starting to learn, playing teams like this.”
The only team still unbeaten in GLC play, the Warriors will play host to second-place Holy Name while the Rockets travel to Valley Forge. Both games are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. tip-offs on Friday.
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