LEO — Al Gooden wasn't happy with his team's defense for 36 minutes against Leo.
For an entire regulation and one overtime period, the New Haven boys basketball head coach felt his team was struggling to stop the Lions from finding the open man outside and slow to help on defense when they would drive to the basket.
That changed in the second overtime as the Bulldogs (8-2) created turnovers on four straight possessions using a stifling full-court press to beat Leo 82-75.
The Lions had eight turnovers total in the two overtime periods.
“The defense before the OT, you know we didn't play any,” Gooden said. “Bad defense. (We) let them penetrate and kick and (we were) not guarding the shooter… (in the second overtime) we sat down in our defense, and we played straight man-to-man and staying out on those shooters.”
A key component behind New Haven's defensive surge was Travis Crowe off the bench. With Steve McElvene done for the game with five fouls, the junior was instrumental in winning the game. Crowe was part of creating turnovers on three consecutive possessions that led to points from the rest of New Haven's team.
“We had 19 turnovers in the game and eight of them came in the two overtimes and that just killed us,” Leo coach Cary Cogdell said. “You turn it over against them, they turn it into points because they are very athletic, they run so well and they convert in transition.”
Leo (6-5) struggled in the second overtime but got there behind its own strong defense. The Lions opened up in a zone aimed to limit McElvene and it was effective for the entire first half as it forced New Haven to shoot from outside.
The Lions built a 24-13 advantage early in the second quarter, but then Jordan Hogue took over the game.
New Haven went on a 24-4 run behind Hogue's all-around play. He finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
“When they take Steve (McElvene) away, we had to go to those other options and it worked out for us,” Hogue said. “I just try to come out and play as a team player. If I have the shot I take the shot, but I'm not going to force anything.”
Leo's plan worked for a half, but eventually McElvene's height became too much of an issue inside.
The New Haven big man scored 13 of his 19 points after halftime. Many of the points came as New Haven simply threw the ball high and inside and McElvene jumped higher than everyone to grab it.
“We adjusted to that zone,” Gooden said. “You know, we've always been an inside-out team, that's in our DNA. In the first quarter we were looking so hard to go in and out, you can't do that with a zone.”
As New Haven changed and built a nine-point third-quarter lead, Leo came back by finding its shot. The Lions' Dylan Barrow and Adam Davison were a combined 3 for 12 in the first half but made six three-pointers in the third and fourth quarters to help Leo storm back. This was capped off by Bryce Beer hitting a runner in the lane to tie the game at 69 with less than three seconds left and send it into the first overtime.
The teams then scored just three points each in the first overtime before New Haven's defense came on to seal the victory in the second.
“You know in double overtime, you learn how to sit down and we had our back up against the wall for a while, but they worked through it and won the game,” Gooden said. “When we needed to grind out it, we did, and we ground it out (to win).”