FLINT, Michigan — We finally have an answer to the question many Mott fans have been pondering through the first quarter of the season: Can the Bears win big games when their star player struggles? The not-so-easy answer is yes.
The no. 1-ranked Bears survived a major scare against Owens, a team many consider to be among the best in the region, winning 74-70 Wednesday night.
The win was Mott’s second this season over Owens, coached by former Mott and University of Toledo assistant Dave Clarke. The first time around, Mott ran away from Owens on the strength of sophomore guard John Taylor. This time around, Taylor (and his 29 points per game average) was stymied by the Express. Taylor was in single digits for most of the game before scoring eight points in crunch time to help secure the win for the unbeaten Bears.
The problem, for Owens, is clearly depth. The Express have two of the top players in the region in 6-7 forward James Kelly and former Albion standout Justin Edmonds. This two-headed monster has been running roughshod over the competition so far this season, but their team’s obvious lack of a true point guard is magnified against powerful teams like Mott.The pair combined for 36 points. Kelly is about as good a big man as their is at this level. He’s a thoroughbred athlete with a surprising skillset. Edmonds, for his part, has added a great deal of strength to his game since high school.
Mott led by nine points at the half and appeared to be on their way to another lopsided victory before the Express heated up from the perimeter. Taronta Cole’s only basket of the game was a big one for Owens in the second half, cutting Mott’s lead to four. He only attempted two shots in the game, but scoring wasn’t the reason for his 30 minutes on the floor. His job was to stop John Taylor, and he did quite well at that for most of the game.
Taylor still led Mott with 19 points, but the player of the game for the Bears was freshman Ralph Eason. Mott’s high-rising combo guard scored 14 points with five rebounds, four assists and a pair of steals. He’s slowly turning into Mott’s most reliable all-around player. He’s a more offensively-talented version of former Mott guard TJ Cameron. Mott’s only other player in double-figures was sophomore point guard Darryl “Boo” Marshall. He scored 11 points, all in the first half.
It was great to see Coach Schmidt going head-to-head with Clarke. I’m certain his early success at Owens is a point of pride for Schmidt.
Mott is now 9-0 on the season and preparing for Monday night’s showdown on the road versus archrival Lansing.