SARANAC — Jon Filion paced Northeastern Clinton with 11 points at halftime but was unable to convert a single basket in the second half Thursday.
That’s when Joe Murphy Austin Tetreault stepped to the forefront.
Murphy and Tetreault combined for 15 points in the final 16 minutes, helping the Cougars (6-0, 2-0) to a 45-36 victory over Saranac in Northern Basketball League Division I play.
“We just had to stay motivated,” Murphy said. “You’ve got to take control of the game. We lost control for a bit, but we got it back.”
Facing a six-point deficit at the break, the Chiefs (2-2, 1-1) received contributions from John Maye, Tanner Rascoe and Dylan Christopherson, winning the third quarter by a 13-12 margin.
Saranac, however, shot poorly from the field, disallowing itself an opportunity to pull within striking distance.
The Chiefs hit just two field goals in the fourth quarter and shot 5-for-28 from the 3-point line in the game.
Northeastern Clinton coach Robb Garrand said his team’s 2-3 zone lapsed in the third quarter.
“We got caught being a little lazy at times,” Garrand said. “I also found we didn’t do a good job of denying the middle.
“It was more of a lack of defensive focus. It turns out, Saranac was much more aggressive on the boards. I think we got a little too comfortable with our lead.”
The Cougars were suffocated by Saranac’s full-court pressure in the final stanza, but Garrand said his team remained composed to close out the win.
“We spent a lot of time in practice (focusing) on patience,” Garrand said. “Our players realize that 10 seconds in the backcourt is a lot of time to make things happen.”
Northeastern Clinton defeated the Chiefs by a 20-point differential in the championship game of Muggsy’s Tip-Off Classic Nov. 23. Garrand said the outside-in game had much better balance in the second go-around.