UNION GROVE — The Union Grove High School boys basketball team played really well for a stretch of about 13 minutes Friday night.
It was just enough for the Broncos.
Union Grove went on a 19-5 run bridging the first and second halves, then was barely able to withstand a 40-point second half by a determined Catholic Central squad for a 65-56 nonconference victory in Union Grove’s gymnasium.
A switch to a 3-2 zone defense helped the Broncos (1-1) get the run going. The score was tied 16-16 with 5:59 left in the first half, but Union Grove scored the final six points of the half for a 22-16 lead, although there was no scoring in the final 2:44.
The Broncos stayed in the zone to start the second half and continued to keep the Hilltoppers (0-2) at bay until around 11 minutes left in the second half.
A 3-pointer by sophomore Bennett Wright seemed to get Catholic Central going and although the Broncos kept the lead around 10 for several minutes, the Hilltoppers began to chip away.
“They got some turnovers and some deflections out of (the zone), but we settled down and hit some 3s, and that opened it up a little bit,” Catholic Central coach Kyle Scott said.
The Broncos matched Catholic Central basket for basket, but Union Grove coach Dave Pettit expected more out of his team on defense.
“Our strength should be our transition game and we didn’t have any transition buckets (in the first half),” Pettit said. “We tried to turn it up with a little press and got the transition going, then our half-court defense disappeared. Then our transition disappeared when our defense disappeared.”
Through a supreme effort, the young Hilltoppers — they have seven sophomores and three juniors on their roster — battled back. They trailed 35-21 at the 11-minute mark, but cut it to five points with 3:24 left after a 3-pointer by sophomore Brandon Pum.
After a 6-3 run by the Broncos, Catholic Central got within 57-54 on a 3 by Pum and a layup after a steal by senior Frank Koehnke.
But that was as close as the Hilltoppers could get. Jack Pettit went 4 for 4 at the free-throw line and scored on a transition layup, and Riley Hale had a pair of free throws as well.
“I love how we battled back,” Scott said. “But we have to shore up our defense — we just can’t swap buckets like that.”
Jack Pettit said he and his teammates still have work to do as well.
“Our press helped us,” said Jack Pettit, who finished with a game-high 22 points on 8 of 10 shooting from the field and 6 of 7 from the line. “But we just have to play better defense and communicate on defense.”
Hale had 14 points and Sam Rampulla had 10 for the Broncos. Dax Cramer had eight rebounds and Hale and Jacob Ross each had five assists.
Coach Pettit echoed his son’s sentiments and praised the Hilltoppers’ style of play.
“We held them forever at 16, then all of a sudden they scored 40 (in the second half),” Dave Pettit said. “I think they were more physical than us and they worked a little harder on defense than we did.
“We’re by no means satisfied with how we played tonight.”
Koehnke, a senior who is playing on a partially torn ACL, led the Hilltoppers with 19 points and seven rebounds. Wright added 16 points and Pum had 11.
Union Grove 65, Catholic Central 56
CATHOLIC CENTRAL (0-2)
Rieck 0 0-0 0, J. Pum 1 2-2 5, B. Pum 3 3-5 11, Koehnke 8 3-5 19, Shaw 2 0-0 4, Miles 0 1-2 1, Wright 5 2-2 16. Totals 19 11-16 56.
UNION GROVE (1-1)
Pettit 8 6-7 22, Hale 5 2-2 14, Gamble 1 0-0 3, Ross 2 1-2 5, Long 0 0-0 0, Nelson 0 0-2 0, Hansel 1 1-2 3, Cramer 3 2-3 8, Rampulla 5 0-0 10. Totals 25 12-18 65.
Halftime—Union Grove 22, Catholic Central 16. 3-point goals—CC: B. Pum 2, J. Pum, Wright. UG: Hale 2, Gamble. Total fouls—Catholic Central 16, Union Grove 15. Rebounds—Catholic Central 27 (Koehnke 7), Union Grove 31 (Cramer 8).