TORONTO - Oh what a difference a half of basketball can make.
Toronto sprinted to a 10-point halftime lead (32-22) in Friday's game with Bridgeport at the George J. Kunzler Memorial Gymnasium thanks to a torrid shooting performance from behind the arc (the Red Knights swished seven of eight triple attempts).
In the second half, however, John Leary's club went cold and the 'Dogs went to work. The end result - a 63-53 victory for Donnie Cash's now 3-0 roundballers.
Parker Dyson and Bailey McGrath played the inside-outside game to perfection as the guests outscored the Red Knights 41-21 during the final 16 minutes. Q.J. Williams and Robert Teeman were outstanding in their supporting roles. As Cash noted, "this is our second comeback victory of the season."
The Red Knights sank six of 12 shots during the initial period to grab a 17-7 lead. Blaine Rawson connected twice from behind the arc while Nate Stewart and Hank Clegg also bagged triples. Leary's now 2-2 crew tallied the first eight points of the game.
Toronto recorded three more makes from downtown to build its 10-point advantage.
Bridgeport 63 Toronto 53
Bridgeport 7 15 18 23 - 63
Toronto 17 15 4 17 - 53
BRIDGEPORT (3-0): Seevers 3 2-2 8; Cash 0 1-2 1; Teeman 5 1-2 11; McGrath 5 3-4 14; Williams 5 2-4 12; Dyson 8 1-3 17; Sieber 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 26 10-17 63. 3-pointers: McGrath; Rebounds: 35 (Williams 12; Dyson 11); Turnovers: 10.
TORONTO (2-2): Stewart 3 0-2 9; Glenn 7 2-4 17; Roche 0 0-0 0; Clegg 2 2-2 7; Rawson 4 0-0 12; Roush 4 0-0 8; Keirsey 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 20 4-8 53. 3-pointers: Rawson 4, Stewart 3, Glenn, Clegg; Rebounds: 25 (Glenn 7); Turnovers: 16.
"When I saw the stats at halftime and realized we were seven for eight on threes, I knew we weren't going to keep shooting like that," Leary stated. "Those seven in the first half really made the difference in the game."
Cash knew "they (the Red Knights) were going to make some shots on their home court. They had seven threes in the first half; you can't let a team do that.
"We got up in their faces at halftime and I liked how they reacted in the second half. Defensively in the first half, we didn't do anything we have been taught to do."
Two Dyson makes from the paint pulled Bridgeport to within two (34-32) early in the third. Tyler Roush gave their Red Knights their final lead of the evening at 36-32 before the 'Dogs rattled off eight straight. Dyson and McGrath recorded field goals and Williams went one for two from the line. A McGrath triple put Cash's crew ahead 40-36 heading into the final eight minutes.
Bridgeport converted eight of 16 field goal tries during the stanza while Toronto was just two of 10.
"We had a four-point quarter against Edison, a two-point quarter against Catholic Central and another four-pointer tonight," Leary pointed out. "We just weren't hitting our shorts in the third. When we are missing shots and our offense is not clicking, we have to learn to mentally and physically transition from offense to defense.
"I was pleased with our defense in the first half; we were boxing out and getting rebounds. In the third quarter when we allowed them to get back in the game, we gave up a couple of key second shots."
Bridgeport continued to score from the paint during the final period and canned seven of 10 free tosses down the stretch.
Dyson had 10 of his team-high 17 points during the second half. He also hauled down 11 rebounds to complete his double-double and blocked five shots. McGrath finished with 14 (12 coming in the second half). Williams contributed 12 (seven in the third and fourth periods) while Teeman got 11 (nine after the half). Williams paced the 'Dogs with 12 boards to join Dyson with a double-double.
"With this team, they all have the green light on the offensive end," Cash pointed out. "We had to be more patient offensively in the second half. We were a little too hyped up in the beginning and missed a ton of layups. We were rushing our shots in the first half but in the second half, we gathered ourselves and finished.
"We have been battled tested early. We're sharing the ball well and it's been a different guy stepping up late in each game. I like how we have been playing but we obviously have a lot of work to do. We need to get better but it's a long season."
Blaze Glenn again led Toronto in scoring with 17. Rawson added 12, all coming via the long ball. Stewart had nine, nailing three triples.
"We have to do a better job of executing our offense," Leary added. "We sometimes get too wrapped up in shooting the three. There were several times tonight when we forced a three and passed up an easier shot."
Both teams will be on the road Tuesday. Bridgeport heads to River and Toronto to Beaver Local.