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Mustangs control Warriors from tip

District 6 Class 2A Boys Semifinals: Portage 64, West Branch 38

TYRONE — When you have a young team like the Portage boys basketball team is, it’s hard sometimes to remain patient.

“One thing we preached was that we don’t have to take that first open three, we can be patient,” Mustang coach Travis Kargo said. “We can get that open three at any time against that zone. We got to make the attack off the bounce.”

The third-seeded Mustangs didn’t settle for the first available shot much Monday night, and it showed from the opening tip as they pummeled No. 2 West Branch, 64-38, in the District 6 Class 2A semifinals at Tyrone Middle School.

Portage wasted no time taking control of the game in the first quarter as they went on a 14-0 run which helped its defense hold the Warriors scoreless through just over six minutes of the game.

Trenton Bellomy put a brief stop to the early run with a 3-pointer around the 1:45 mark of the quarter. However, the early attempt to build a rally was thwarted when the Mustangs’ Preston Rainey took an inbounds pass from Koby Kargo and drained a runner at the buzzer to make it 18-5 Mustangs after the opening frame.

“That was a huge confidence booster with a young team to come out and take that type of lead,” Travis Kargo said. “It helped them settle in, and we knew that they were going to make a run. They’re going to hit a lot of three’s. They’re going to shoot them, and they’re going to fall.”

Those 3’s started to fall in the second for the Warriors as Bellomy buried a pair from long range, and Camden Kopchik later added one of his own from NBA range.

That would be answered later by Koby Kargo with one from the professional range on his way to scoring nine points. The Mustangs capped off the stanza with a Kaden Claar floater for the bonus opportunity as they took a 32-22 lead into the locker room.

“We weren’t ready to come out to play,” West Branch Danny Clark said. “That’s not like our team, we didn’t expect it. We were 0-for-6 on free throws to start.

“That just kind of carried over. This year we’ve been down a lot at halftime, and came back and won a lot of games. We just didn’t have it today.”

The Mustangs pulled away for good in the third quarter as Claar scored seven of his game-high 16 points to give them a 17-point cushion after the third quarter.

Portage made 23 shots from the field, while West Branch connected on 14. The Mustangs were 69-percent from the line (11-for-16) compared to just 20-percent for the Warriors (2-for-10).

“They had five possessions where they had four offensive rebounds in a row and then we fouled, and they got two free-throws,” Clark said. “That’s just crucial, that shouldn’t happen. We weren’t attacking, we weren’t aggressive and we usually are.”

Travis Kargo believes his young team has grown up fast this season.

“We really pass the ball well, we really share the ball well,” he said. “We’ve been preaching that going back to first grade, kindergarten. That’s the key to basketball.

“You don’t see a ton of one-on-one with us. It’s a lot of drive, find the open guy and be patient.”

Portage will now play Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic in the Class 2A championship game on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. at Mount Aloysius.

PORTAGE (64): K. Kargo 3 0-0 9, Zatek 1 0-2 2, Claar 7 0-0 16, Miller 2 3-4 7, Rainey 4 3-4 11, M. Kargo 3 0-0 7, Miko 1 5-6 7, Gouse 1 0-0 3, Scarton 1 0-0 2, Dobrowolsky 0 0-0 0, Lawrence 0 0-0 0. Totals — 23 11-16 64.

WEST BRANCH (38): Ebock 0 0-0 0, Gutierrez 4 0-2 8, Bellomy 4 0-4 12, D. Kolesar 1 1-2 4, Kristofits 1 0-0 2, Kopchik 2 1-2 7, Rothrock 1 0-0 3, Dale 1 0-0 2, Tiracorda 0 0-0 0, K. Kolesar 0 0-0 0. Totals — 14 2-10 38.

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Portage 18 14 17 15 — 64

West Branch 5 17 10 6 — 38

3-point goals: Portage 6 (K. Kargo 3, Claar, M. Kargo, Gouse); West Branch 8 (Kopchik 2, Rothrock, Bellomy 4, D. Kolesar).

Records: Portage (20-5); West Branch (19-6).

Officials: Dave Heim, Mike Andrews, Bill Pfeffer.

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