By Kedrick Storey
BLUE MOUNTAIN – It took almost a half for the Blue Mountain Cougars to seize control of their Class 1A North Tournament game against the Wheeler Eagles on Tuesday night.
When they did, they rolled to a 65-54 victory to advance to the North quarterfinals for the second year in a row.
Down a point with 1:29 remaining in the second quarter, senior post Raeqwon Young hit his first of three straight baskets in a 8-2 spurt to give the Cougars a 36-31 lead at the break they would never relinquish.
However, Blue Mountain coach David Mason thought his Cougars didn’t match Wheeler’s intensity to start the game and they didn’t take advantage of Wheeler leading scorer Brandon Erby being sidelined with an ACL injury.
“That’s what frustrating. I thought we should have started that run with eight minutes to go in the first quarter,” Mason said. “With the Erby kid out, we felt they had nobody down low to match him (Young). We really never started feeding the post, but once we got it in there, he took advantage of it.”
Blue Mountain got a 3-pointer from Ismael Ruedas, another bucket from Young and a 3-pointer from Jacob Girley to start the third quarter for a 44-31 lead. The trio led the Cougars with Girley pouring in a game-high 22 points, Ruedas adding 19 and Young 14. Ruedas pulled down nine rebounds and Young eight.
The Cougars will continue the North Tournament against Coffeeville on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. at Biggersville
Wheeler (20-10) got no closer than seven points over the final two quarters. Part of that had to do with 16 total turnovers and being out rebounded 24-11 in the second half. Hunter Brown led four Eagles in double figures with 16 points.
“We just made too many turnovers in the first half,” said Wheeler coach Guyton Wilkerson, who thought things may have been different with Erby in the lineup. “We played hard but they just beat us, that’s all you can say.”