Exeter falls to Verona
In front of a capacity homecoming crowd, the Verona Wildcats spoiled Exeter's basketball celebration by defeating the Tigers (7-16) 59-53 on Feb. 8.
Exeter controlled the pace early, forcing the Wildcats to play the Tigers' style.
At the 5:26 mark of the second quarter, Verona coach Brad Stewart was forced to take a timeout after back-to-back 3-pointers by Exeter's Michael Brattin and Kong Lee gave the Tigers a 14-8 lead.
After the timeout, The Wildcat answered with a pair of long bombs.
Verona's Dre Sitton hit the first one from behind the arc, and Seth Hilton hit the second, which forced Exeter's coach Jay Allen to call a timeout with 4:17 left in the second quarter and the score knotted at 14-14.
"Coming out of that timeout, we got back-to-back treys by sophomores," said Stewart. "I felt that we needed that boost, because Exeter had a chance to possibly run away with it."
The Tigers' Colten Stringer scored 4 quick points to give Exeter an 18-14 edge. That would be the Tigers' last lead of the game, as Verona answered with a 6-0 run to close out the first half, up 20-18.
"We had a simple plan at half," said Stewart. "The plan was to have Seth (Losack) drive the ball to the hole. We wanted him to create for Tomas (Estrada) in the paint or kick it out to a shooter. Obviously, it worked tonight."
Estrada, scored a game-high 25 points with 21 of those coming in the second half.
"Tomas was coming in to tonight's game after setting a career high against Wheaton (18 points)," said Stewart. "He is playing really well right now, and with our lack of size, we need him to continue to play big inside."
Estrada took over the third quarter, outscoring Exeter 12 to 9 in the period, giving Verona a 39-27 lead.
"We didn't play very good defense on Tomas in the third," said Allen. "He is going to be a really good player, but we made it easy for him to have the big game. We did not apply any pressure inside to slow him down."
Exeter never gave up, cutting the lead to 4 points with 1:29 to go in the game after a 3-point shot by Blake Walker. James Kho hit a trey with 19 seconds left, leaving Verona clinging to a 2-point lead at 55-53.
Exeter was forced to foul, which sent Seth Hilton to the line for a one and one. Hilton knocked them both down and iced the game.
"I am proud of how hard we fought back," said Allen. "Verona had a double-digit lead on us a couple of different times in that second half. If we take care of the ball better and execute better, there is no reason we lose this game.
"Kong was really good tonight, but we expect that every night from him," continued Allen. "It doesn't help when we get a little bit out of control in the first quarter. I want us to conduct ourselves the right way. We need to eliminate the mental mistakes we make when calls don't go our way."
Scoring for Exeter: Lee, 22 points; Stringer, 14; Walker, 9; Kho and Austin Johnson, 3 each; and Terry Cook, 2.
Scoring for Verona: Tomas Estrada, 25 points; Ascencion Estrada, 10; Hilton, 7; Losack and Brent Downs, 6 apiece; Sitton, 3; and Justin Smith, 2.