LONGMONT — What a way to end a month-long trip — and open the 4A Tri-Valley League schedule.
The Mead boys basketball team will play its first home game Saturday night and returns from the road on a high note. Thanks to a game-high 25 points from Aaron Cheung, the Mavericks went up big in the first half before holding off the slumping Skyline Falcons 65-61 on Friday night.
“We played our first eight games on the road, and this was big. This is probably the best atmosphere we’ve played in so far,” Mead coach Darin Reese said. “To jump out early withstand a run and finish is a big confidence boost.”
The Mavericks (5-3, 1-0) are certainly battle-tested after traveling for the first part of the season, and it came in handy against Skyline. The Falcons entered Friday with a four-game losing streak and looking to turn things around. They got 15 points and 12 rebounds from senior Colton Dabney, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a 15-point halftime deficit.
“After a 3-0 start we were pretty excited,” Dabney said. “The same thing happened last year; we were 2-0 and dropped seven in a row. It’s frustrating.”
Friday’s game was a microcosm of Skyline’s season. The game was close midway through the second quarter when Cheung heated up. He scored 13 points and hit three 3-pointers — the final one at the buzzer as he was falling on his back to give the Mustangs a 39-24 lead at intermission.
“I’ve had scoring games like this,” Cheung said. “Maybe not one that’s been sustained over a half like this one.”
The Falcons (3-5, 0-1) used their size advantage to claw their way back into the game. Dabney started getting touches near the basket, and if he wasn’t hitting shots he was going to the line or feeding his teammates on the outside.
Senior Dustin Mandrell scored 11 of his 16 points in the second half and Luciano Quesada had eight points after the break.
“At halftime our coach emphasized we needed to post feed a little more,” Dabney said.
Falcons coach Michael Peterson declined to talk after the game.
Skyline was able to pull within two early in the fourth and had a chance to take the lead but Mandrell’s 3-pointer bounced off the rim
Cheung, who had been silent after a 17-point first half, hit a step-back 3-pointer to make it a five-point game again.
“Shots were falling in the first half but I have teammates that can pick up the slack,” Cheung said. “That’s what we did in the second half and that’s why we were able to keep the lead.”
Dabney fouled out and the Mustangs finished the game from the foul line.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our kids for withstanding that run and making the next play,” Reese said. “We hit some big shots down the stretch and some free throws. That was big for our program.”
And now they can go home and finally see some friendly faces.
Mead 65, Skyline 61
At Skyline HS
Cheung 9 2-2 25, Lozinski 5 1-4 11, Desch 3 4-4 11, Nelson 3 1-2 7, Korell 3 0-0 6, Beaver 2 1-2 5, Lamb 0 0-4 0. Totals 25 9-18 65.
Mandrell 5 2-2 16, Dabney 6 3-8 15, Quesada 5 5-6 15, Anthony 5 0-2 10, Soriano 1 3-3 5. Totals 22 13-22 61.
Score by quarters:
Mead 14 25 6 20 — 65
Skyline 9 15 13 24 — 61
3-point field goals — Mead (6): Cheung 5, Desch; Skyline (4): Mandrell 4. Total fouls — Mead 21, Skyline 17. Fouled out– Dabney. Technical fouls — None.