Athenian broke open a tight game in the second half with host St. Vincent with some stifling full-court pressure. and the Owls from Danville handed the Mustangs a 46-37 defeat in DeCarli Gym on Friday.
The game was close at halftime, with Athenian holding a 20-17 advantage before it ran off 11 unanswered points triggered by the press after a 3-point play the hard way by Tyler Pease.
St. Vincent had no response with a rotating backcourt that turned over the ball seven times in the third quarter. Double teaming along the sideline did most of the damage.
Athenian, representing the Bay Counties East League, got a terrific scoring performance by junior forward Gabe Swartz, who netted 17 points in the first half to keep his team in front.
While the backcourt struggled, it was the play of Pease at the pivot that kept the Mustangs in the hunt. The 6-foot, 5-inch post worked very hard to get inside positioning, and his teammates found him with some well-directed entry passes. Pease knocked in six points, with a couple of bankers and two free throws in the first half.
A couple of 3-point shots by Ryan Abar of the Owls helped his team hold off a fourth-quarter charge by the hosts. Abar finished with eight points.
Hustling play by Gio Antonini and guard Joe Sartori helped St. Vincent chop the Owl advantage to seven points at 34-27, but St. Vincent could get no closer, turning over the ball repeatedly. Antonini had four points and five rebounds in the sequence, while Sartori knocked in a mid-range jumper. Antonini brought short bursts of activity that appeared to energize the Mustangs and the home crowd.
Pease wound up with a season-high 16 points for the Mustangs, despite sitting out much of the fourth stanza, followed by Sartori, who bucketed seven.
Three of the close-in shots by Pease were keyed by well-crafted look-in passes from Rory Morgan. The two taller players worked well in a revolving high-low set created by coach Scott Himes.