Over the last several seasons, the Madison-Grant Argylls’ core group of playmakers have had very little trouble scoring the basketball.
In fact, they shine in that department.
However, the majority of the Argylls’ success in the current campaign is a direct result of their play on defense and their continued excellence on that end of the floor resulted in yet another victory.
Kaden Howell put together another tremendous offensive effort, Grant Brown’s defensive brilliance was on full display, and the Argylls punched their ticket to the Grant Four championship game with a 51-38 triumph over the Oak Hill Golden Eagles in their semi-final contest on Tuesday afternoon.
“We had a gameplan coming into [today.] I don’t know how good it was or not, but the guys did a great job of executing and buying in at a really high level,” Madison-Grant Head Coach Kevin Cherry said. “That’s a good win for us. I’m happy with our guys. It was a total team effort, and that’s our culture, and what it’s about.”
Brown was one of the major catalysts in the Argylls’ win, locking down the perimeter throughout the afternoon. Tasked with guarding Oak Hill shooting guard Landon Biegel, Brown held the Golden Eagles’ star sophomore to just 11 points – and only four in the first three quarters of play.
“Grant does so many things well,” Cherry said. “He just has bought into this role of being an elite defender. He went from a guy who had the basketball in his hands all the time to now…guarding the other team’s best player. He has 100 percent bought into that, and I couldn’t be happier for him.”
In his first three years, Brown served as the team’s primary point guard, offensive facilitator, and one of Madison-Grant’s top scorers. Now, in his senior season, he has embraced the role of top defender as well – and it has been a near seamless transition.
“It was something that we knew was coming,” Oak Hill Head Coach Kevin Renbarger said. “He [defends] with a lot of confidence, and he is able to do it without fouling. He’s got tremendous length, so he is able to defend in the post, and has the quickness of a point guard to defend on the perimeter.”
While Brown did his work on the defensive end, it was Howell who helped to jumpstart the Argylls’ offense.
After a scoreless two-and-a-half minutes to begin the first quarter, and after Biegel opened the scoring for Oak Hill, the Argylls responded with 11 straight points, eight of which came from Howell. His back-to-back triples put Madison-Grant up 9-2 with 3:32 remaining in the first quarter, and his third basket of the frame a short time later put the Argylls firmly in control.
“They are playing with a ton of confidence,” Renbarger said. “They’ve always been able to score on the offensive end, but the difference is confidence. We were never, ever in a position to challenge that comfort level.”
The Argylls opened the second quarter with seven straight points, including back-to-back triples from Brown and Jackson Manwell, to go up by 14, holding the Golden Eagles scoreless for over two minutes in the process. Madison-Grant held that double-digit advantage the rest of the first half, leading 28-16 at the halftime break.
Oak Hill made their push in the third quarter, twice cutting the Argylls’ lead to 10 points, but each time, Madison-Grant had an answer.
After the Golden Eagles trimmed the lead to 30-20 in the first two minutes of the second half, Justin Moore and Howell responded with a basket in the paint and a three-pointer, respectively, to increase the Argylls’ advantage back to 15. At the 1:16 mark, Oak Hill’s Kian Hite again cut the deficit to 10 points, but Moore responded with a crucial three-point play in the final 10 seconds of the period to prevent momentum from swinging in the Golden Eagles’ favor.
“Every time they made a little bit of a run at us, we were able to counter,” Cherry said. “We made big [shots] at [opportune times,] and that kept them at bay. We knew the run was coming. I was happy we were able to withstand that.”
Moore carried the load in the third quarter, scoring seven points and using his size to his advantage in the post, while Howell helped to close the game out for the Argylls, scoring five points in the final eight minutes, including a pair of free throws.
Howell led Madison-Grant with 21 points to go along with four rebounds, while Moore finished with 14 points. Manwell collected eight points, while Brown added six along with five boards.
For Oak Hill, Hite finished with 12 points and four rebounds, while Biegel and McKinney each finished with 11.