Good defense: Turnovers propel Fort Frye over Frontier, 53-40

BEVERLY – Fort Frye head coach Eric Henniger hasn’t been very pleased with how his defense has come out and performed early in games lately.

After forcing 21 turnovers, including eight in the first quarter of a 53-40 victory over Frontier Tuesday night in Beverly, the first year boss was much happier.

“That’s what we wanted to do, we wanted to put a lot of pressure on defense in the first quarter,” Henniger said. “These guys stepped up on defense tonight. That’s exactly what we wanted because the last two games it hasn’t been good to start out.”

Although the Cougars shot 52 percent from the floor, they were only able to get 29 shot attempts due to the pressure from the Cadets.

“It just shows that our defense was on top of it tonight,” Henniger continued. “Most of the time when you get more shots you have a better chance of winning.”

The Cadets didn’t shoot badly themselves going 19-for-45 (42 percent) from the floor, led by Shon Smith’s 17 points. Seth Lagraen also had a nice game with 13 points and a game-high seven rebounds.

Drew Schneider was the top scorer for Frontier, putting up 14 points on four treys and a pair of free throws. Levi Cochran was also in double digits with 10, while Jordan Jefferson led the Cougars in rebounding with six.

Caden Brooker scored the first five points of the game on two layups and a free throw to give the Cadets a 5-0 advantage. Taylor Merckle made a bucket to put Frontier on the board and make it 5-2.

Lagraen then converted a three point play on an assist from Chandler Lang followed by a jumper from Smith to extend the lead to 10-2. After Smith hit two foul shots, Merckle hit a layup and Schneider nailed a 3-pointer to cut it to 12-7.

After Lang and Merckle traded baskets, Smith scored five straight points on a layup and a 3-ball to make it 19-9. Dylan O’Neal hit one off the glass followed by a free throw from Jefferson to make it 19-12 at the end of first quarter.

Fort Frye held Frontier to 2-for-7 shooting in the second quarter. Smith hit two buckets sandwiched by a behind-the-back dish to Lagraen for a layup to extend the Cadet lead to 29-17. Tyler Norris nailed two free throws to make it 31-17 at halftime.

Schneider came out of the break on fire for Frontier, scoring eight straight points including back-to-back 3-pointers to cut the deficit to 31-25. After Lang drained a jumper, Jefferson and Lagraen traded buckets to make it 35-27.

A trey from Dominic Omspach brought the lead back to double digits to end the third quarter.

With Fort Frye up 47-35 in the fourth, a Cochran 3-pointer kept hope alive for Frontier. Unfortunately for the Roger Kirkpatrick-led Cougars, that was as close as it would get as Jordan Anderson hit a pair of foul shots and Lagraen hit a layup to put the game out of reach at 51-38.

“This is a hard place to play,” Kirkpatrick said. “I thought we continued to fight back and did some good things defensively. Shon Smith is a very good player. I have the greatest respect for him. Coach Henniger does a good job with that group.”

The Cougars, who are getting better as the season progresses, had Fort Frye on the ropes several times but could not quite complete the comeback.

“We had opportunities, two or three times we cut it to six. Then they came down and hit a key shot or we threw it away or missed a basket. But I’m proud of my kids. I though we fought ’til the end.”

On the other end, Henniger liked the balance that his team showed on offense.

“That’s something we’ve improved on the last three or four games,” Henniger explained. “We’ve got a lot of people stepping up right now. As the year goes on and everybody sees more film, they’re gonna key on Shon a little more. That’s why it’s very important for the rest of our guys to step up. They’ve started to do that and that’s exactly what we need.”

Both teams are on the road Friday, as Fort Frye (5-5) plays Caldwell, while Frontier (2-8) takes on Shenandoah.