EXETER – When Tyler Neville is on, everyone else seems to elevate their game.
That’s what McCool Junction Mustangs boys basketball coach Jarrod Weiss said of his team’s 62-48 win over the Class D-2 No. 10 Exeter-Milligan Timberwolves on Tuesday night in Exeter.
Neville, a 5-foot-9 junior guard, played bigger than his stature on Tuesday by scoring a team-high 29 points while grabbing six rebounds – four of which were on the offensive glass – and dishing out three assists. Tuesday’s scoring outburst was Neville’s season-high and his third contest where he recorded 21 or more points in a game.
“I thought Tyler had a great game,” Weiss, who didn’t make the trip due to illness, said on Wednesday morning. “When Tyler is scoring well, his overall game picks up and his teammates around him are better for it. I thought we rebounded well at times, we got them (Exeter-Milligan) into some foul trouble and we hit some key free throws in the fourth to put the game into our favor.”
With assistant coaches Grant Jackson, Ryan Knees and Jabe Wurtz running the show on the bench for the Mustangs, McCool controlled the game from the start. The Mustangs led 15-9 after the first quarter and 23-17 at halftime. The biggest threat for McCool was Exeter-Milligan’s junior sharpshooter Jackson Beethe, who matched Neville’s scoring in the game with 29.
“The Beethe kid is a hard guard simply because he can go inside and outside,” Weiss said. “Our goal was to make him earn his points, but we lost him a few times which left him open.”
Exeter-Milligan’s defense needed some stops in the second half in order to chip into the deficit, but that didn’t happen. McCool scored 17 points in the third and sealed the victory in the fourth by netting 22.
The Mustangs did good enough at the free-throw line, too, making 17 of 25. Exeter-Milligan was 10 of 17.
Tuesday night’s contest was the second this season between the two teams. The first came in a quarterfinal of the Crossroads Conference tournament two weeks ago. The Mustangs won that one by 26 points, 64-38.
Weiss said a rematch against such a talented player like Beethe inside of a two-week span worried him a bit, but his team came through and executed the game plan.
“Anytime you play a team twice in two weeks you know the situation is going to be different and that the game would be closer,” Weiss said. “Whenever you have to coach against a great coach in Dean Filipi you know it won’t be easy. I thought Exeter-Milligan did some nice things adjusting to the things we do. They handled our pressure better than they did the first time.”
McCool shot 35 percent as a team from 3-point range in the win, with Neville going 4 of 11 and Owen McDonald 2 of 4. McDonald finished his night with 15 points and four boards.
Mustangs’ senior guard Dana Hobbs added nine points, seven rebounds and took two charges while junior big Kaden Kirkaptrick had seven points and eight rebounds.
Sophomore guard Chase Wilkinson was a playmaker for McCool as well with a team-high seven assists to go along with two points.
McCool, which is now riding a three-game winning streak, improved to 14-5 and will travel to Dorchester (5-14) on Friday.
Exeter-Milligan (12-9) will travel to Stromsburg on Friday to play Cross County (16-6).
McCool Junction (14-5) 15 8 17 22 – 62
At Exeter-Milligan (12-9) 9 8 14 17 – 48
McCool Junction scoring: Tyler Neville 29, Owen McDonald 15, Dana Hobbs 9, Kaden Kirkpatrick 7, Chase Wilkinson 2.
Exeter-Milligan scoring: Jackson Beethe 29, Peyton Pribyl 6, Max Zeleny 5, Ryan Sharp 4, Kole Svec 3, Casey Underwood 1.