Cadets beat Zeps in key PVC matchup
Friday night’s Pioneer Valley Conference matchup went back and forth for two-and-a-half quarters until a pair of free throws by Nick Miller and a 3-pointer by Colby Farmer gave the Zeps (5-1) a 38-32 lead with 55 seconds left in the third.
With momentum swinging in Shenandoah’s favor, Fort Frye (2-1) called on junior Devin Layton, who had just checked into the game for the first time. Layton responded with a critical 3-pointer to cut the lead to three and help the Cadets take back the momentum en route to a 53-47 victory.
Shenandoah head coach Marc Smith felt Layton’s 3 was the play of the game.
“We lost the game at the end of the third quarter,” said Smith, whose team plays at River Saturday. “I thought we took control of the third quarter when we took that 38-32 lead. (Fort Frye) ran about 40 seconds off the clock holding for a 3. We knew (Layton) was a spot 3 and we just missed a defensive assignment.”
The Cadets quickly tied the game early in the fourth quarter on Luke Nelson’s 3, which was followed by two Brayson Schilling free throws and a Grayson Schott layup to put the hosts up 44-40.
Tanner Brown’s basket got Shenandoah within two, but Schilling answered with a putback. From there, Fort Frye outshot Shenandoah at the foul line 7-3 to put the game away.
“We knew it was going to be a good game,” said Fort Frye head coach Eric Henniger. “We know how good Shenandoah is. Coach Smith is doing a great job building that program back up. They’re a disciplined, strong, physical team and I glad to see that our guys stepped up to that.”
Henniger agreed with Smith on the importance of Layton’s shot.
“That’s why he’s in the game, and he knows that,” Henniger said of Layton. “He’s known that since he was a freshman. We’ve always told him that if you’re not going to shoot the ball then I can’t play you. He’s one of the best shooters we have. He went out, got an open opportunity and hit a big shot.”
Tyler Bradford led Fort Frye with 12 points, five rebounds, three assists and three blocks. The Cadets had a balanced attack, though, with Nelson scoring 10, Schott adding nine, Schilling tallying seven and Tate Engle and Zane Greenleaf netting five apiece. Engle also dished out three assists.
“We had a few people step up,” Henniger said. “Tyler Bradford played a great game. Devin Layton came off the bench cold and hit a big 3 for us. Luke Nelson hit a big 3. All the pieces fell into place there at the end. We played eight or nine guys and I thought everybody, at one point in the game, did a great job of stepping up.”
Boone Jones and Colby Farmer scored 13 each to lead the Zeps. Brown and Nick Miller tacked on eight apiece. Clint Wikander chipped in four assists.
The Zeps dominated the boards, 30-16, with Jones grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds for a double-double. However, Shenandoah also turned it over 17 times to Fort Frye’s nine.
“We’ve been playing close games all year,” Smith said. “Our kids have done a really nice job to this point figuring out how to win games.”
Fort Frye, which travels to Monroe Central next Friday, went 18 for 40 (45 percent) from the floor. Henniger admitted the win over Shenandoah was crucial.
“We talked about it for the last two days, just how important this win is,” he said. “To start off 1-0 in the PVC was very important, no matter who it’s against. We wanted to get some confidence going into next week and I think we did.”