Brian Johnson Special Correspondent
The Byng Pirates forced 26 Prague turnovers and shot 50 percent from the floor in the second half in hammering the Prague Red Devils, 56-41, Friday night in the semifinals of the Patriot Ford Byng Pirate Invitational at Bill Koller Fieldhouse.
After connecting on only 8-of-26 shot attempts in the first half, Byng was 11-of-22 in the second. Despite the first-half shooting woes, the Pirates owned a 24-18 halftime lead, thanks to forcing Prague into 15 first-half miscues.
“Overall, our defensive intensity was pretty good. We had a couple of breakdowns early which caused some foul trouble,” said Byng head coach Trent Miller. “We let them in the paint a little early on, but we shut that down a little bit after that.”
The Pirates, who improved to 7-2 with that victory, faced Purcell in Saturday night’s late championship game.
Senior forward Joe Nemecek paced the Pirates with 13 points and seven rebounds to go with two steals, while another senior, Reid Wall, ended up with 12 points, five boards and a game-high four steals. Jacob Birdshead followed with nine points, including a pair of treys, and three assists, and Ryan Smith added eight points, including one 3-pointer, off the bench.
Wall’s nine first-half points fueled Byng to the six-point halftime cushion. But Byng had a better offensive slow in the final two quarters.
“It was good to see our guys stay after it. We had some good shots. They just wouldn’t fall (in the first half). It was nice to see our guys shoot with confidence,” Miller said.
Prague’s 6-foot, 8-inch junior, Jeffrey Morehead, registered a double-double with 12 points on 6-of-12 shooting to go with 10 rebounds.
Trailing 14-13 midway through the second quarter, the Pirates went on an 11-4 run in the final 3:32 of the half, with Reid Wall scoring five of those points during that stretch.
The Red Devils stayed in contention and were down just 27-22 with 6:46 to go in the third before Byng went on a 16-3 spurt to close out the quarter.
Three consecutive 3-pointers — the first by Smith and the next two by Birdshead — ignited that surge which enabled the Pirates to take control. Byng led 43-25 after the third and cruised from there.
Also included in that third-quarter run were three straight short-range buckets by Nemecek in the final 2:19 of the period.