DIXON — Just how big of a problem were Hopkins County Central's 30 turnovers in Saturday's loss to Ohio County?
"I can't even say big enough times," Storm coach Rex Booth said.
That's how the opening day of the Webster County Holiday Classic in Dixon went for the Storm, who were smothered by Ohio County's constant pressure in their third straight loss.
Central (3-4) fell behind early after turning the ball over 10 times in the opening quarter and never retook the lead against an Ohio County team that sent waves of substitutes five at a time to keep fresh legs on the court for its full-court press.
"We shouldn't turn the ball over that much because we are guard oriented, but they brought the pressure and the energy and we kind of backed off," Booth said. "It kind of snowballed on us. One led to two, and two led to 10.
"They brought good pressure, but we have seen good pressure all season and didn't turn the ball over. I think it was more on ourselves and our mental errors."
Ohio County (2-5) entered the game on a three-game losing streak and was playing without star sophomore Trace Young, but the Eagles were incredibly efficient with a platoon pressing defense that coach Matt Brigance installed just a day earlier.
"This was the first time we have implemented it, so we haven't had much time to work on it," Brigance said of the defense. "We want high intensity. Our goal was to get 15 deflections a half, and we got 39 deflections. We wanted to go five-in and five-out with each group playing hard for three minutes before coming out. We wanted to wear them out, and I think we did that today."
The Storm trailed 36-29 at halftime and closed to within five points twice in the third quarter, but Ohio County ended the third on an 8-2 run and then continued to open up its lead in the fourth quarter.
"We would cut it to five and then turn the ball over three possessions," Booth said. "It's frustrating, but it's early. We have things to fix, and we have time to fix them."
Malik Gant led the Storm with 18 points and eight rebounds and was 8-for-9 from the field and 2-for-2 from the free throw line, hitting all five of his second-half shots.
"When Malik catches it 15 feet and in, he's pretty much guaranteed to score," Booth said. "He has such a soft touch around the rim and knows how to create his own shot."
Shelby Myers added 17 points and eight rebounds, and Damontae Barnhill finished with 10 points and four rebounds for the Storm, who didn't get more than four points from any other player.
Johnathan Callaway led Ohio County with 18 points and four rebounds, while Nate Morris and Austin Segers scored 12 and 11 points, respectively.
The Storm grabbed its only lead with 3:46 left in the first quarter when Gant scored to put Central ahead 9-8, but Ohio County's Blaine Gillim drilled a 3-pointer on the next possession to lift the Eagles back in front.
Myers scored eight points in the third quarter -- including a stretch of six points in less than a minute -- to help chip away at Ohio County's lead, but the Eagles used six straight points from Callaway at the end of the period to jump back ahead by double figures. The closest Central got in the fourth quarter was 68-57 with 3:27 left.
The Storm outrebounded Ohio County 34-17 with Gant and Myers alone nearly pulling down more rebounds than the entire Eagle team.
"I thought we did a much better job on the boards," Booth said. "We did a better job on the boards than we did Tuesday night against North. The kids were more focused on blocking out every time the shot went up."
Central will play two more games in the three-day Webster County Holiday Classic -- today at 7 p.m. against Webster County and Monday at 12:30 p.m. against Clay County.
HOPKINS COUNTY CENTRAL 15-14-18-15--62
OHIO COUNTY 17-19-22-17--75
Hopkins County Central (62) -- Gant 18, Myers 17, Barnhill 10, White 4, Pearson 4, Bowman 3, Greer 2, Page 2, Wilson 2.
Ohio County (75) -- Callaway 18, Morris 12, Segers 11, Wilson 9, Tichenor 7, Carter 6, Newcom 4, Wagler 2.