Martins Mill is too much for North Hopkins

By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY | News-Telegram Sports Editor

Feb. 22, 2008 - WILLS POINT - The North Hopkins Panthers started their area round playoff game against Martins Mill on Thursday by hitting the first shot they took.

Unfortunately, it took the Panthers a full quarter to hit another.

Martins Mill, ranked No. 7 in the state, used a big first-quarter advantage to pull away to a 67-38 victory in the Class A, Div. I playoffs at Wills Point High School.

NH sophomore Jy'Darius Hawkins hit a 3-pointer 13 seconds into the game to give the Panthers their only lead. Martins Mill answered with three 3-pointers of its own in the period to run out to a 21-3 advantage.

"The main thing in the game was their man-to-man defense on us," said NH head coach Matt Rager. "They really played well, and they really took our players out of the game. It's about hitting shots and getting stops on defense, and that's what they did."

North Hopkins ended the Mustangs' long run when Hawkins hit a tear-drop jumper from the free throw line to start the second period. Hawkins ended with a game-high 18 points, including four 3-pointers, to go with three assists.

That helped the Panthers steady themselves, and they were only outscored 11 points in the final three periods, but the first-quarter deficit was too much for the Panthers to get back into the game.

Rager said playoff nerves probably surfaced for his young team (19-8), which started two sophomores and a freshman. The Mustangs (23-9) had four senior starters.

"Martins Mill players have been through the games - whether they've started or not, they've been in big games," Rager explained. "We've got a lot of freshmen and sophomores, and even juniors and seniors, who have never played before at the varsity level. This was their first playoff game except for Roger (Sancho) and Jy."

Martins Mill had two players score in double figures - Isaac Fuller's 14 and Austin Tindle's 11 - but nine of the 10 players scored at least four points and all 10 had at least one rebound. The Mustangs owned the boards with a 38-18 advantage.

Martins Mill had a 33-13 halftime lead and expanded it by nine points before North Hopkins responded as Calvin Brey hit a low-post bucket and Canyon Cockrum came through with seven points, including a 3-pointer, in the final three minutes. Cockrum finished with nine points and a team-high five rebounds.

But, Martins Mill continued to hit its shots. The Mustangs finished shooting 48 percent (26-of-54) from the field, while North Hopkins made 35 percent (14-of-40).

"They're a pretty solid team. They work the ball well and they execute their game plan," Rager said. "When we were in our man-to-man, they executed pretty well and got stuff inside, so we went to a zone and they hit shots from the outside."

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