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Coming out of halftime, New Haven wanted to push the ball a little more against Wayne. That was just fine with guards Monte Stevenson and Jabar Ray.
The guard duo scored 14 points of a 19-4 run for the Bulldogs as they went from a 37-34 halftime score to a 20-point lead in the third quarter.
New Haven (16-5) used the faster pace to move on to the IHSAA Sectional 6 finals with an 81-65 win against Wayne (13-9) at Huntington North. New Haven plays Homestead in the sectional finals tonight at 7:30.
Stevenson provided his input by speeding off after every rebound. He got layups and fouled in the process, draining four free throws in the opening minutes.
When Stevenson wasn't driving himself, he found Ray in the corner as he drained back-to-back three pointers in the middle of the third quarter.
“Our coach (Al Gooden) told us we have to push the ball, we can't slow down, we have to play hard on defense and offense,” Ray said. “And yeah, I'm always feeling it. I can't mess up when it's sectionals.”
The fast play didn't just get the guards involved either. While New Haven's guards took off and cut in and out of Wayne defenders, the Generals often left big man Steve McElvene alone.
The Bulldogs didn't forget about their teammate. With a few quick passes, they found McElevene underneath as he scored 10 points in the game, eight in the second half. He finished with a double-double as he also had 12 rebounds.
“We have a pretty good, quick team and we've got to push it up a little bit more and then get it inside,” Gooden said. “They're seniors, they're pretty good about shooting good shots you know, and they've become pretty good about finding the open man.”
The offensive changes coincided with a defensive one as well. In the first half, New Haven switched between man-to-man and zone defenses but played almost exclusively zone in the second half.
It was a strategy that paid off as Wayne went cold from outside. In the first half, the Generals kept themselves in the game by hitting five of seven 3-point attempts but the second half didn't produce the same results. The Generals went only three for 20 from outside after the break.
“We kind of settled back in our zone,” Gooden said. “You know, they hit some good shots in the first half, and in the second half we were setting down in our defense and rebounding the ball pretty good.”
New Haven's fast pace also got the entire team involved and didn't let Wayne stay in it late.
The Bulldogs had four players hit double digits, with Notre Dame recruit VJ Beachem and Ray leading them with 23 points each and Stevenson scoring 14. Wayne was led by Justin Mitchell's 21 points and Marlon Fincher's 13.
“We knew the first four minutes of the third quarter was very important,” Beachem said. “So, once we said that in the locker room (at halftime), I think everyone took it to heart. We came out playing faster, quicker, playing our game a little bit more.”
New Haven 17 20 23 21 — 81
Wayne 18 16 11 17 —62
New Haven: Stevenson 14, Hogue 9, Ray 23, Beachem 23, Curry 2, McElvene 10
Wayne: Justin Mitchell 21, Ellison 8, Fincher 13, Levi Mitchell 5, Black 3, Jescus Mitchell 8, Smiley 4