LOUISVILLE — Facing a 2-3 zone should have presented the Monarch boys basketball team with little to no challenge.
On a team stacked with dead-eye shooters from the wing, the Coyotes are well-versed in patiently working the ball around the perimeter and forcing the defense to move until one of their many options finds himself open enough to pull the trigger.
Of course, the success of this approach is contingent on those players hitting the open shots. And on Friday night against Horizon, the Coyotes simply did not.
While MoHi was able to remain in the game through the first half, and even took a one-point edge into intermission, the Coyotes’ cold shooting finally caught up with them after halftime. With Horizon star guard Michael Skinner going off for 19 second-half points, the home team was unable to keep pace, falling to the Hawks 58-42.
“We did not shoot it well,” Monarch coach Ken Niven said. “And then late in the game we didn’t make plays.
“It was a loss of focus. I thought it started last night in practice and film. And to be honest with you I told my assistant ‘I’ll be surprised if we come out and play well.'”
While the Coyotes certainly got off to a sluggish start offensively, it was their defense that kept things close early on. Monarch forced eight turnovers in the first half, the last of which was a steal by senior Shawn Kirkman with under a minute to play. The guard swiped a pass at half court and then beat a defender on a reverse lay-up that kissed the top of the backboard before dropping through for two of his team-high 11, while giving his team the slight lead heading into the locker room.
MoHi did a particularly solid job slowing down Skinner, who came into the contest averaging nearly 20 points and five assists per game. The senior was limited to one bucket in the first 16 minutes, and he committed four of his team’s giveaways in the span.
The second half proved to be a different story, though. Skinner got going early, scoring his team’s first six points of the third to push Horizon ahead to a 25-23 lead with 5 minutes, 50 seconds to go in the quarter.
Monarch’s Steve Hoban, who finished with nine points, connected on a triple to knot the score at 28-28 with just over 3 minutes to play. However, it proved to be the closest the Coyotes would come to regaining the lead for the rest of the evening, as the Hawks went on a quick 7-0 spurt over the next 90 seconds to seize control.
“I couldn’t finish at all (in the first half),” said Skinner, who had 10 rebounds to go along with his 23 points. “Second half I finally did what I am able to do, and it just all came together from there.
“Second half we did the same thing, shots just started falling. It just took time.”
After a 3-pointer from Skinner to start the fourth and Horizon buckets on the next two possessions, Monarch found itself facing an 11-point deficit with 6 minutes to play. Unfortunately with time winding down, this led to more attempts from deep for the Coyotes, which they continued to misfire on.
MoHi’s shooting from deep (a combined 8 of 27 for the game) and Skinner’s ability to hit from the line (7 of 8 in the fourth) allowed Horizon to extend the lead and coast through the final few minutes of the contest.
“They were long and athletic, and they were good at it,” Niven said of the Horizon defenders. “They took away our easy looks, and so what was left was the three. Mac (Rowan) is a 50 percent 3-point shooter, and so is Hoban. But those numbers were way down (tonight).”
The loss drops Monarch into fifth in the Front Range League standings, but the Coyotes will need to turn things around quickly in order to remain within striking distance of the top squads in the conference. Next week MHS will battle Fairview and Boulder, on Tuesday and Friday, respectively.
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Horizon 58, Monarch 42
At Monarch HS
HORIZON (13-6, 7-2)
Michael Skinner 7 8-11 23, Josh Ralphs 3 0-0 9, Blaze Roberts 5 0-2 10, Tyler Moore 1 2-4 4, Dylan Loucks 1 0-0 3, Grayson Stubbs 1 0-0 2, Jordan Humphries 1 0-0 2, Parker Strain 2 1-2 5. Totals 21 11-19.
MONARCH (16-3, 6-2)
Shawn Kirkman 3 4-4 11, Sam Fredricksmeyer 0 2-2 2, Mac Rowan 2 2-3 8, Erik Lawson 1 2-2 5, Ryan Webb 1 1-2 3, Steve Hoban 3 0-0 9, Kylor Johnson 1 0-0 3, Minda Katilius 0 1-4 1. Totals 11 12-17 .
Score by quarters:
Horizon 6 13 16 23 — 58
Monarch 5 15 11 11 — 42
3-point field goals — Horizon (5): Ralphs 3, Skinner, Loucks; Monarch (8): Hoban 3, Rowan 2, Kirkman, Johnson, Lawson. Total fouls — Horizon 16; Monarch 18.