TORRINGTON – Tied at 31 apiece at halftime, Torrington head coach Neil Baker talked to his team about getting off to a good start in the third quarter and getting a six to eight-point lead by the end of the quarter.
The Blazers did just that en route to a 72-57 win over the Chadron (Neb.) Cardinals Saturday evening at Willi Gym.
In the early going, Chadron’s size and 1-3-1 zone defense caused issues for Torrington as the Cardinals raced out to a 10-3 advantage.
“It was a shaky first quarter, but after that, we settled down. “It was a really solid second half,” Baker said. “They are long, 6-4 at the top and 6-9 in the middle make those passing angles pretty difficult. We just couldn’t get settled. We don’t see a lot of 1-3-1 during the season, and you can’t replicate that.”
By the end of the first quarter, the Blazers chipped away at the deficit, cutting the visitor’s lead to 16-14.
Junior guard Jackson Jones tied the game early in the second quarter, but it wasn’t until six and a half minutes into the quarter when junior forward Sam Firminhac gave Torrington its first lead of the game.
Chadron regained the lead in the closing minute of the half, but senior Bryan Lemmon tied the score at 31 with a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“What was really nice was Bryan played so well early and kept us in it,” Baker said. “Then, Jordan finally got things going in the second half.”
Coming out of the break, Torrington scored the first six points of the third quarter and never trailed the remainder of the night.
“We talked about it at halftime that it would be nice to be up six or eight at the quarter,” Baker said.
They did just that, leading 47-40 heading to the fourth quarter.
Senior Jordan Malm took over in the second half, scoring 18 of his team-high 21 points over the final 16 minutes of the game.
Torrington’s lead reached double-digits late in the third quarter, but Chadron battled back, cutting the deficit to three midway through the fourth quarter.
Firminhac converted an old-fashioned 3-point play to push the advantage to 56-50, and it was a lead which only grew over the final 3:54 of the game.
Malm, Lemmon and Firminhac combined for 48 points for the Blazers. In addition to Malm’s 21, Lemmon added 19 and Firminhac 18.
“I was really happy with Sam Firminhac’s play tonight. He’s 6-3 going up against 6-9 and battled really hard,” Baker said. “Josh Posten did a great job defensively. Trace English started for the first time and did some good things for us. Murphy and Jones coming off the bench in their first varsity action did a good job.”
The Blazers (1-0) travels to Lander Friday and Saturday.