While the Madison-Grant Argylls have been a team over the last three years with the ability to score points in bunches, their performance on the defensive end of the floor played a major factor in their success throughout the first half of the season.
And after a disappointing end to 2019 – an 81-62 loss to the Mississinewa Indians in the Grant Four championship game – Head Coach Brian Trout and the Argylls spent the week working tirelessly on that end of the floor.
“That was really our focal point tonight,” Trout said. “We had a couple of areas that we wanted to show better tonight than we did in [the Grant Four championship] against Mississinewa.”
And did they ever.
Behind an effective half-court trap and full-court pressure, combined with five Argylls finishing in double figures, Madison-Grant began the new decade on the right foot, dominating the Southern Wells Raiders 75-45 on Friday night for their seventh win of the campaign.
It was the second-fewest amount of points that the Argylls have given up all year.
“We kept guys in front a little bit better,” Trout said. “When we were running our pressure, we were doing a good job of getting to our traps and not fouling and then, making plays from there. I was real pleased with that.”
For the game, the Argylls forced a remarkable 22 turnovers, never allowing the Raiders to establish any sort of rhythm offensively.
“It just helped us relax a little,” Madison-Grant forward Justin Moore said. “We didn’t allow them to be in the game at all. We focused a lot this week on ball pressure and keeping our guys in front of us.”
Of Madison-Grant’s 22 forced turnovers, 10 of them came in the first quarter and seven came in the first 5:23 of the contest. Behind their defense, the Argylls rushed out to a 15-0 lead and would hold that double-digit advantage the rest of the way.
“We started out the game really well on defense,” Madison-Grant point guard Grant Brown said. “We got back-to-back-to-back stops and got our momentum going. I think that what was what led us throughout the game.”
The Argylls knocked down seven field goals in the opening eight minutes, while holding the Raiders to just two field goals, building a 17-4 lead in the process.
Southern Wells pushed back in the second quarter, shooting eight-of-12 from the floor and three-of-five from the three-point line, cutting their deficit to 12 points, 36-24, at halftime.
But after Trout challenged his team at halftime, the Argylls came out of the locker room with renewed vigor and put the game away in the third stanza.
“We got a little tired in the second quarter,” Trout said. “Southern Wells knocked down two or three threes there late in the first half, so I told them at halftime that the first four minutes of the second half were really important.”
“They took that to heart. They came out and took care of business right there.”
The Argylls started the quarter on an 11-0 run, and eventually scored 26 points on 10 field goals. Defensively, Madison-Grant allowed just six points and forced three more turnovers.
“We worked all week long on defense, and we just got after it after we got back,” Madison-Grant forward Lance Wilson said. “We look forward to the rest of the season.”
Leading 62-30 after three quarters of play, the Argylls’ lead never dipped below 27 points in the final eight minutes.
For the game, the Argylls finished 30-of-59 (51 percent) from the floor, while holding the Raiders to just 19-of-45 (42 percent).
Wilson, who has played well offensively in recent games, put together another strong performance against Southern Wells, leading the Argylls with 20 points.
“The game is just coming to me,” Wilson said. “I couldn’t do it without my teammates. I’m just shooting with more confidence and getting better looks.”
“He had a great weekend in the Grant Four. He put up 19 against Oak Hill and 21 against Mississinewa. He shot 55 percent from the floor in those two games combined,” Trout added. “We just felt like we had to keep moving the ball. We had driving lanes where we could get to the rim. Any time you can do that, you will shoot a pretty good percentage. I was really happy with our shot selection.”
Moore recorded a double-double for Madison-Grant, collecting 14 points and 12 rebounds in the 30-point triumph.
“That’s one of the biggest focal points I’ve had this season – getting at least eight rebounds a game,” Moore said. “I’ve been trying to focus on that more.”
Brown added 14 points, five rebounds, and eight assists, while Seth Lugar was effective off the bench, posting 11 points and eight rebounds.
“We have five guys right now averaging double digits, and Seth is kind of moving up the ladder,” Trout said. “Seth has done really well in certain games. He just has to get a little more consistency so that we know a little more night in night out what we’re going to get from him. But has had some really, really good games, and I thought he played really well tonight. Not only scoring-wise, but he created a bunch of turnovers in the first half to get us going.”
Madison-Grant returns to action this coming Friday night, January 10, when they travel to Blackford to take on Luke Brown and the Bruins.