Published: January 9, 2014
Normally, a starting lineup that produces only 22 points doesn't translate into a winning result.
For Mesa Ridge, a deep bench and swarming defense more than made up the difference.
Matt Atkins and Camren Burns came off the bench to score 15 and 11 points, respectively, and Mesa Ridge held Harrison to its lowest point total in recent memory in a 69-26 rout Tuesday at Harrison's Thorpe Gymnasium.
First-year Grizzlies coach Paul Mileto has employed a different lineup in all 11 games, and he had to have liked what he saw Tuesday.
"They want to play, but to be part of a program, they need to appreciate what they have," Mileto said. "And that involves putting the team first. I set my lineup for the next game on how the kids are doing at practice and with discipline. When we get a team effort like this, we'll be successful."
Ten players hit the scorebook for the Grizzlies (5-6, 1-0 4A Colorado Springs Metro League), who made sure to put away the Panthers (2-7, 0-1) early and not suffer yet a seventh single-digit loss.
Atkins hit three consecutive short jumpers that started a 10-0 run early in the second quarter that opened up a 23-9 lead.
By halftime, the advantage stood at 28-12, and the Grizzlies didn't let up, especially on defense. Harrison reached double digits in scoring only once, getting a last-second layup in the closing seconds.
"I believe our defense is underrated," Burns said. "We did a good job as a team guarding their top player (Quincy Harding). We wanted to make sure he didn't get the 21 points he was averaging."
Harding was held to only seven points. His last basket, a 3-pointer from the top of the key, brought the Panthers to within 13-9 with 7:12 left in the first half.
After that, Harrison went cold, making just one more shot before halftime, and the drought continued into the third quarter when the Panthers hit just two of 11 shots and looked up at a 49-16 deficit.
"It's real frustrating, because we didn't execute what we've done all week in practice," Harding said. "We fell apart as a team. I'm going to have nights where the shots don't fall, but I have to get it done on the defensive end."
Harrison's final output was the lowest since scoring 30 against Jefferson Academy on Dec. 20, 2005. The Panthers were without starter and leading rebounder Darrius Graves, who was on an official visit at West Point.
Despite not starting, Atkins just wanted to make a difference, even as a cheerleader.
"We keep each other motivated, no matter what the score is," Atkins said. "I just wanted to make sure the guys on the court would start the fire and support from the bench. We all know Coach (Mileto) will put our talents where they fit."