Clifford got open in the second half because Whittier opted to come out in a zone defense to limit the penetration that McKenna and Martin were getting in the second half. The idea was to try and stop them from dumping the ball off to Nick Bates, who exploded for 16-first half points. But McKenna hit tough, off-balance jumpers all game and hurt the Wildcats by getting into the paint and raising up with confidence.
Wildcats head coach Tom Sipsey tried to counter with the zone, but in hindsight all it did was get Clifford going.
“We come out in the second half and try to make a couple minor adjustments — and that ends up not happening and it goes from a nine or 11-point game up to 20 almost immediately” said Sipsey, who explained why he opted to switch his defense.
“I wanted to do the zone because I thought they were getting to the middle of the floor; that causes us to help, (but) they dump to Bates and Connors. We thought the zone would clog up the middle a little. Obviously McKenna and Clifford shoot; the report was, do not let them shoot. We’re in the zone, they shoot and that’s an execution thing on our part.”
Danvers switched defenses constantly rotating between man, zone and a mix between the two. Whittier’s offense centered around two guys (Reyes and Ryan Grant) and while the duo accounted for all but nine of the Wildcats’ points, they turned the ball over time and again.
“We constantly changed up and we even changed how we defended the pick and rolls and the ball screens at times,” explained Danvers head coach John Walsh. “We were constantly sending people (to the ball) and rotating and still, Reyes had 24 and Grant had 18. We just knew if we could limit any other production it would help, and it did.”