Democrat Sports Reporter
LA MONTE — The La Monte Vikings forced 30 turnovers in a 59-20 boys basketball win over Mid-State Conference rival Wentworth on Friday night at La Monte High School.
Cobey Martin came away with five steals, and Seth Johnson and Jason Thompson added three each.
“Knowing where each other is on the court (is the key),” said La Monte senior guard Seth Johnson. “Talking with each other and if the pass is coming, just get in front of your man and take it.”
Wentworth turned the ball over on each of the first three possessions of the game. Later in the first quarter, the Vikings full-court press caused the Red Dragons more problems. Martin had three steals in the first half alone, the first of which led to a Johnson 3-pointer on the other end, the third led to a Johnson layup. Late in the first quarter, a Johnson steal led to a Joseph Arnett layup.
“We’re just trying to keep the press up, trying to work on the press, work a few kinks out,” said La Monte coach Seth Wilbanks. “By doing so, it led to some turnovers and some easy buckets, which ultimately is what you want out of the press.”
Even when Wentworth was able to get around the La Monte press, the Vikings kept getting in passing lanes and causing turnovers.
“We’ve been trying to work on our man-to-man defense,” Wilbanks said. “We run man about 50/50, depending on the team. Our steals and our forced turnovers have been down lately, so we’ve been trying to step that stat up, be a little more aggressive, and I think we stepped that up with a good step in the right direction.”
Johnson scored 20 points in the first half, including a jumper from the top of the key five seconds into the game to put La Monte in the lead for good. He finished with 22 points and five assists.
“I was just stepping up, knowing it was open,” he said. “Just feeling confident it was open.”
He hit four 3-pointers in the game.
“Their zone was very soft,” Wilbanks said. “It left the top open for Johnson, but it also left the middle of the free throw line open all night long. They really weren’t guarding out at the perimeter, and when you have a shooter like that, you just let him shoot.”
La Monte scored the first 19 points of the game: Johnson’s opening jumper followed by 3-pointers from Martin and Johnson, a Logan Rieckhoff basket in the paint, another Johnson 3-pointer and a pair of Arnett layups.
Wentworth got on the board with 5:45 left in the first half on a Toby Zhang putback, but Johnson scored the next nine points to make it 28-2. The Vikings led 31-6 at halftime.
After scoring on 13 of their 35 first-half possessions, the Vikings came out and scored on each of their first seven trips of the third quarter. Thompson started the half off with a putback, and following a Martin steal, Johnson found Tristan Hackworth in transition for a layup. After another Thompson putback and free throws on the next two possessions, Hackworth added a 3-pointer and Arnett scored a putback to make it 46-8.
Wentworth briefly got within 35 points midway through the fourth quarter when Zhang scored on a putback, but Hackworth answered with a 3-pointer and a layup off a steal by Johnson.
Hackworth finished the game with eight points. Arnett had nine.
La Monte (5-6, 3-1 Mid State) will host Tipton on Tuesday.