Dan McLane knew that, in order for his Brunswick High School boys basketball team to compete with New Town in Friday's Class 1A state semifinal contest, the pace of the game would have to be slowed rather significantly.
And slow they did, so much to the point where a photographer likened the first half scoring to a soccer match.
Quite the contrary to their 46-point burst in the first 16 minutes in last week's regional final with Allegany, the Railroaders forced the game to a near halt, slogging through two quarters of poor shooting, botched layups, and turnovers to head into halftime down 16-11.
“We wanted to try and control the tempo as much as we could,” McLane said after suffering a 52-44 loss to the Titans. “We knew that their tempo was going to be much faster than ours so, again, I thought we did a pretty good job of that.”
Similar to McLane taking away New Town's biggest advantage — athleticism — Titans' coach Mike Daniel made a point to limit any open looks from beyond the arc that Brunswick could muster. Daniel had traveled to Hagerstown Community College on Saturday and witnessed Brunswick make eight first-half 3-pointers en route to its highest total of the season (73 points, 27 by 3-pointers) and made the connection that to take away the deep threat would be to rob Brunswick of its most dangerous element.
“I went to scout them Saturday and they really, really shot the basketball,” Daniel said. “They had like four or five guys that were nailing it. But today we tried to zero in on keeping the ball in the backcourt and I thought we did a good job with that and when we had a breakdown they dropped shots, they dropped shots.”
Until 5 minutes, 31 seconds remained in the fourth quarter and New Town was up 37-25, Daniel's scheme worked to near perfection. Zach Hossler, who scored 23 points on four 3-pointers against Allegany, failed to hit a single three, finishing 0-for-7 from deep and 1-of-14 from the field, and mustered just five points on Friday.
New Town's defense forced the Railroaders' first-half field goal percentage to dip below 21 percent (5-for-24), which atoned for some equally anemic production on the Titans' part (28 percent on 7-25 shooting). Brunswick didn't reach 26 points until Joe Fawley hit the Railroaders' first 3-pointer with 5:31 remaining in the game.
“We have kind of struggled all year with teams that were very athletic and with a lot of length,” McLane said. “And they came out with a lot of length on our guards and just made things tough on us. I thought we did get some good looks, we just weren't able to knock them down and down the stretch there we were able to knock a few of them down and if we hit a few of those earlier, maybe we see something different.”
Despite being undersized and significantly overmatched athletically, the Railroaders were able to control the glass, outrebounding the Titans 41-35 with the help of a game-high 16 rebounds from Dallas Darling.
“I thought at times we boxed out well and rebounded well,” Darling, the only Railroader in double-figure points with 10, said. “They're athletic so we had to. We knew that we weren't going to be able to jump and get our rebounds because there was no way we were going to be able to compete with them. We had to box out and I thought we did pretty well with that.”
New Town 52, Brunswick 44
New Town 10 6 18 18 — 52
Brunswick 4 7 9 24 — 44
New Town (23-3): Justin Brown 23; Danny Shand 17; Keith Wainwright 6; Shawn Magginson 4; Kenny Sherrod 2.
Brunswick (16-10): Dallas Darling 10; Joe Fawley 8; Blaine Price 7; Brandon Axline 6; Jay Howard 6; Zach Hossler 5; Chance Smith 2.