By Kevin Prise
BUFFALO — The Medina boys basketball team didn't get off to its best start on Friday evening. A few easy shots were missed, and a few sloppy turnovers led to some easy buckets for the Burgard side.
But coach Tom Forrestel's Medina squad hung in there. Rotating two five-man units throughout the game, the Mustangs stayed fresh and wore the Bulldog squad down, to the tune of a 24-6 scoring advantage in the second quarter. The resounding burst gave Medina a cushion to work with in the second half, and the Mustangs cruised to a comfortable 54-41 victory in a non-league contest at the Burgard HS gym.
Medina improves to 2-0 on the season, avoiding a letdown after a 71-43 win over Oakfield-Alabama earlier in the week.
"By far, the biggest thing in the second quarter was the second group of five guys," Forrestel said. "They've been working hard in practice, and they came on. They dominated, really; they were patient and composed, and you can't ask for anything more than that."
Burgard used a 9-2 spurt to open the game, before Medina sophomore Dylan Lewis nailed a three-pointer that cut the deficit to four and elicited a loud cheer from the Medina bench. This was the beginning of a 26-3 Mustang stretch that spanned the first and second quarters, as Medina's second unit proved to be an incredibly worthy complement to the starters.
Throughout the game-defining 26-3 run, the Mustangs stayed aggressive and forced numerous turnovers of their own, leading to a string of easy baskets. Kevin Arnold had a whirlwind of a steal-and-score move that made the score 15-10, and a rebound-and-putback combination effort by junior David Garrow made it 24-12 with less than four minutes remaining in the first half.
The run was completed with a putback bucket by Munjie Brown and a layup by Ben McPherson, making the score 28-12 Medina with 90 seconds left in the first half. Forrestel was working the sideline and encouraging his players to keep it up, and they did just that, with an emphatic block by Brown providing an emphatic final highlight to a first half that ended 31-16 in Medina's favor.
"The first five guys were really rattled, and then that second group came on, and that was the absolute key thing in the game," Forrestel said. "Trying to keep everybody involved, it's really paid off. We've been working hard in practice with that mentality, and those guys came on and righted the ship."
Brown added another gravity-defying block late in the third quarter, as the Mustangs let off the gas a bit but managed to hold their 15-point lead at 39-24 with eight minutes remaining.
Burgard managed to pull to within single digits at 46-37 with three minutes to play, but two quick layups by McPherson ensured that the Bulldogs would not draw any closer.
After cruising to victory in the season-opening win against Oakfield-Alabama, Medina faced a scrappier and faster Burgard team, Forrestel said. The Mustangs may have had some difficulty adjusting at first, but once the rhythm of the game was set, Medina flourished.
"It was more up-tempo (tonight)," Forrestel said. "It's just a different style of basketball. I'm not afraid to play up-tempo — that's what we're trying to do. It got a little sloppy for us in the second half, but we hung in there and knocked some free throws down and the end, and made a couple of key baskets. Give the credit to these guys. They executed."
McPherson led Medina with 13 points, while junior Jason Hellwig, Garrow and senior Adam Hoot added eight points apiece.
Medina opens its Niagara-Orleans League slate on Friday night, in a road contest at CSAT.