SARANAC LAKE - Two minutes into Thursday's basketball game, everything seemed to be working for Saranac Lake's boys.
Taking advantage of three steals and an offensive rebound, the host Red Storm found themselves surging to a 7-0 lead against Northeastern Clinton. But when senior point guard Kevin Morgan got in early foul trouble, Saranac Lake's offensive woes became evident very quickly.
With one of the Red Storm's key players stuck on the bench for much of the game, the Cougars pulled away to claim a 49-37 victory and left Saranac Lake still looking for its first Champlain Valley Athletic Conference win.
Teddy Yanchitis goes to the hoop to score Saranac Lake’s first points in Thursday’s game against visiting Northeastern Clinton. Yanchitis netted a team-high 15 points in the loss to the Cougars.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
Taking control down low, John Filion paced the Cougars with a game-high 18 points, which included 10 in the final quarter. Many of Filion's points came off assists from Tom Bedard, the lone senior on NCCS. The point guard tossed in 15 points.
Struggling at the point guard position, Saranac Lake was forced to rely on senior forwards Teddy Yanchitis and Kellen Munn, who combined to score 28 points. The 6-foot-6 Yanchitis dumped in 15 points to lead the Red Storm and Munn followed with 13.
After hitting a short jumper in the opening quarter, Morgan tossed in five more points in the fourth period to finish with seven. Carl Bevilaqua and TJ Monroe rounded out Saranac Lake's scoring with one point apiece
"Right now we have three guys who can score for us, and teams are beginning to figure that out," Saranac Lake head coach Dermott Morgan said. "We started out just the way we planned, but then Kevin got into early foul trouble. I don't think he played at all in the second quarter.
"The rest of our guards are young, and we are going to need somebody to step it up there," coach Morgan added. "If Kevin Morgan is on the floor, we do good things. When he's not, we struggle at both ends of the court."
Facing a 7-0 deficit with just 1:19 gone in the game, the Cougars started to chip away and led 12-10 at the end of the first quarter.
The Red Storm regained the edge at 13-12 to start the second period when Monroe made one of two free throws and Munn followed with a layup. But the Cougars then went on an 11-0 run to finish the first half and never looked back. They grabbed their first double-digit lead at the end of the half when Matt LaFave sank a 3-pointer, sending NCCS into intermission on top 23-13.
The Cougars gradually increased their advantage after halftime and held a 37-20 lead after three quarters. The closest Saranac Lake got the rest of the way was a 12-point deficit when Munn hit another layup with four minutes remaining that made it a 41-29 game. NCCS then went on an eight-point run to seal the victory.
"It wasn't a good start for us," NCCCS coach Rob Garrand said. "We were just throwing the ball around, being lazy with our passes, and all of a sudden, we're down 7-0. It's not easy to climb out of a hole like that, but fortunately we did.
"We started out the second half like we did the first. We were sloppy, but we began getting the ball down low," Garrand added.
Thursday's game marked the second time in three starts that Morgan fouled out.
"Kevin is confused right now," coach Morgan said. "As a coach, do I tell him to crash the boards or stay out of foul trouble. I didn't agree with some of the calls made on him, but I do know we have to have him on the floor. We have two of the best forwards in the league with Teddy and Kellen, and we have to get them the ball. When we don't have Kevin, right now, the only place we can score from is inside.
"I think it will take some time, but we are going to improve. We need to get some less experienced players up to speed."
The Cougars improved to 4-1 with the win. Saranac Lake next plays Monday on the road at Moriah.
Northeastern Clinton 49, Saranac Lake 37
Northeastern Clinton (49)
Boudin 0-0-0, LaFave 2-0-5, Khater 0-0-0, Tetreault 2-1-6,
Begore 2-0-5, Tavernia 0-0-0, Bedard 6-1-15, Filon 8-2-18, Deuco 0-0-0. Totals: 20-4-49.
Saranac Lake (37)
Lester 0-0-0, Bevilacqua 0-1-1. Fischer 0-0-0. Morgan 2-2-7, Cowan 0-0-0, Monroe 0-1-1, Munn 6-1-13, Yanchitis 6-3-15. Totals: 14-8-37.
Three-point goals: NCCS (5), LaFave, Tetreault, Begore, Bedard 2. SL (1), Morgan.