WOODSTOCK – On many nights, a near seven-minute field goal drought in the first half would be an anxiety-inducing moment for most basketball teams. But when Massanutten Military Academy’s postgraduate squad experienced such a stretch on Wednesday night, Fork Union Military Academy never came close to tipping the scales in its favor.
By the time the Colonels went cold against one of their in-state rivals, they held a 27-point lead, and their smothering defense ensured FUMA stayed buried in that insurmountable hole. MMA held the Blue Devils to just 17 points in the first half and coasted comfortably to its 10th victory in a row, picking up an 81-55 win over a team that, like MMA, has traditionally ranked among the best postgrad programs in the country.
“I thought it was the most solid we've been all year defensively,” said Colonels head coach Chad Myers, whose team improved to 16-2. “I don’t think we missed one switch. I don't think we hardly missed any box outs. We didn’t give them any layups. Maybe one time in transition they might have got a layup against the press, but I didn't think we had any breakdowns defensively. I just kept saying if we can make them try to score over top of us then they’re gonna struggle, and we did it to the best of our ability tonight.”
The Colonels unleashed a barrage of 3-pointers earlier in the first half, but lost their shooting touch after Dereon Seabron’s trey from the wing gave MMA a 39-10 lead with 6:35 left before halftime.
MMA scored just 2 points on a pair of free throws for the remainder of the half, but the Blue Devils (11-4) managed little better against an energetic, in-your-face Colonels defense and went into the break trailing 41-17.
The Colonels forced 10 turnovers in the first half and held FUMA to just 21.4 percent from the field over the first 20 minutes.
“We were just really relentless going at it,” MMA guard Jarren McAllister said.
The Blue Devils ended the night shooting 31.1 percent (19-for-61) and turned the ball over 18 times, including eight MMA steals.
“We knew they didn’t have that many good ball-handlers and people that can go off the dribble, try to make their own plays,” said Seabron, a recent North Carolina State commit who finished with 15 points, seven assists and four rebounds. “They’re more of like fundamental, like cuts and back screens and all that, so we just knew what we had on the defensive end.”
MMA paired that defensive effort with an offensive explosion through the game’s first 13 ½ minutes.
The Colonels got hot from beyond the 3-point arc early, hitting 8 of 10 shots from deep during one stretch in the first half and forcing FUMA head coach Matt Donohue to call three timeouts in a four-minute span early in the contest.
MMA led 31-6 just over 10 minutes in.
McAllister, a VCU signee, made four consecutive 3-point shots in the first half after missing his first three field goal attempts and finished with a game-high 24 points. Seabron added a trio of 3-pointers – two in the first half – and five other Colonels contributed to the team’s 13 treys in the win.
Most of MMA’s 3-pointers came from wide-open set shots as the Colonels picked apart the Blue Devils’ sagging man defense by driving to draw defenders in and kicking the ball out to the open man.
“We were just driving the gaps and taking advantage of their bigs, how slow they were and being just a half a step early,” said McAllister, who was 8-for-16 from the floor (4-for-8 from deep) and led the Colonels with 10 rebounds. “We stuck to our play, kept swinging and attacking gaps and hitting open guys.”
The threes started falling again in the second half, and Connor Withers’ second 3-pointer of the half stretched the Colonels’ lead to 59-26 with 14:30 to play. That advantage reached as high as 39 points before Myers went deep into his bench with the game well in hand.
MMA shot 43.1 percent (28-for-65) from the field in the win and 39.3 percent from beyond the arc and committed only four turnovers through the first 31 minutes before play turned sloppier with reserves closing out the contest.
Fork Union, led by two 10-point scorers in Caleb Mauldin and Jaylin Reed, made only 4 of 21 shots from outside the 3-point arc in the loss.
The Colonels next travel to Fork Union as part of the Virginia military school circuit, where they will play nationally ranked Mt. Zion Prep (Maryland) and Beckley Prep (West Virginia) on Friday and Saturday.
“I almost felt like we had to get this win tonight,” Myers said. “I didn’t wanna tell them that, but I felt like it was almost like a must-win at home because you don’t wanna come off a home loss trying to go on the road. But I think we’re as good or better than all the teams we have on our schedule, but it’s kind of like to me, it’s like who shows up for us? If we try to guard like (we did against FUMA), I don't really think many people can beat us.”