GRANVILLE — The team that can best take advantage of whatever opportunities are presented during a basketball game — be they chances to drive the lane for a score, grab a loose ball or rebound or somehow capitalize on the opponents misfortune — is usually the one that will come out on top.
And that’s how No. 4-seeded Henry-Senachwine advanced to the semifinals at the 94th annual Tri-County Conference Tournament.
After host and No. 5-seeded Putnam County connected on four 3-pointers on its way to a 15-13 first-quarter lead, the No. 4 Mallards made a defensive switch that factored into the Panthers posting 8-for-34, (23.5 percent) shooting from the field over the next two quarters.
Meanwhile, Henry sank a solid 12-of-21 at its end to run its lead to double digits before settling for a 56-50 verdict over PC in R.M. Germano Gymnasium.
The veteran Mallards, despite losing senior forward John Rediger to an ankle injury early in the third quarter, got strong efforts from his classmates throughout — a game-best 20 points from Jake Miller, 15 from Griffin Self and 14 points and 13 rebounds from Ethan Condit.
That and the switch from zone to man defense at the start of the second period were enough to send Henry into a semifinal against No. 1-seeded Roanoke-Benson at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Putnam County, which saw Matthew Liebhart pop in 16 points and 13 from Jakob Pyszka, drops into Thursday’s 6:30 p.m. consolation contest against No. 9 seed DePue.
“In the first quarter, PC really shot the ball well against our zone,” said Henry coach Brandon Pettett. “A lot of the difference after that was when we decided to go back to our man defense, it eliminated a lot of their open shots by just having guys there instead of leaving their guys open and uncontested.
“We really preach to manage the game from start to finish, to be patient and take what the defense gives us. We have five seniors who start for us and that goes a long way having that much experience out there. We have a lot of guys who can handle the ball for us and they know to take advantage of what’s there, whatever mismatches present themselves and to take advantage of every opportunity
“We also had three sophomores who came in after the injury and each one added something to the game for us, whether it was defense or getting something under the basket. Without them, I don’t think we come out with the victory.”
In the opening quarter, Condit netted six points to offset a pair of treys from Jacob Williams before the Panthers shooting started going awry.
The host squad connected on a chilly 4-for-20 in the second period, but trailed just 28-25 after Self’s putback three-point play with just 0.8 of a second left.
Going just 4-of-14 in the third might have left PC down more than 10 points it trailed by if not for a solid edge on the glass. Seven third-stanza points by Liebhart got PC within 42-36 heading to the fourth.
But there, the Mallards’ patience and experience kept them in front.
Miller drained a trey and then four free throws that widened the lead back to 52-41 on a toss by sophomore Eric Garrison with 1:36 left.
The Panthers finished the night at an even 30 percent (18-of-60) from the floor, which included 10-of-27 from beyond the arc.
Henry made 20-of-39 for 51 percent overall, but made just 9-of-20 free throws.
“When you rely on your shooting and they’re not going in, you’d better have a Plan B and we couldn’t figure out a Plan B tonight,” said PC coach Harold Fay. “We had that little meltdown right before halftime with the three-point play. That kind of switched the momentum, but we just haven’t grasped yet about rebounding and stepping into your guy. We tend to ball watch a little bit, so we have to do a better job at that.
“We also missed a lot of easy shots in the first half, shots that could have given us that four-, six-, eight-point lead and made them burn energy coming back.”