NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Drury defense forced eight turnovers in nine Mount Everett possessions to spark a 23-3 run that opened the second quarter and led the way to a 65-56 win on Monday in the opening round of the Gene Wein Holiday Tournament.
Hayden Bird scored a game-high 28 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as the Blue Devils won their third straight to open the season.
The difference was the Drury press, which allowed the team to break open a 14-11 game and take a 37-14 lead with about three minutes left in the first half. Most of the baskets in that stretch were quick conversions of steals either in the back court or midcourt.
When Drury got into a half-court game, it struggled to create scoring chances.
“Our half-court sets are something we need to work on,” Drury coach Jack Racette said. “We’re young. We start a freshman, three juniors and a sophomore. These are all guys without a lot of experience playing with one another.
“I thought we played better in the first half than we did in the second. When teams get us in a half-court set, it’s something we need to work on. But when we get the game going fast, we’ve got some guys who can play at that pace.”
Cristian Montoya scored 15, and Reece Racette added 11 points and three assists in the win.
For the Eagles (0-3), four players finished in double figures, led by Cassius Conaway, who scord 17. Damonitti Conaway had a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Mount Everett’s Cavan Brady (12 points) scored at the end of the first quarter to cap a 5-0 run for the Eagles.
But Bird took flight to start the second.
First, the Drury big man put back an offensive rebound. Then he had a steal and scored in transition. After a turnover against Drury’s press, Bird scored with an assist from Conor Clark. Then a 5-second call against Mount Everett on the ensuing inbounds play led to another Bird bucket in the post.
After the Eagles hit a 3 to get within eight, 22-14, Bird put back a rebound, and after Drury’s press got the ball back again, Connor Meehan set up Bird for his sixth basket in about a minute and a half.
Drury went on to score 11 more in a row — the last a 3-pointer by Mike Carpinello to make it 37-14.
At that point, Jack Racette decided to get some of his regulars some rest with the Blue Devils down two starters and staring at back-to-back games in the tournament.
“I went to my bench, and we didn’t get good bench play,” he said. “I think it’s something we need to continue to work on. … I thought maybe we could get a little bit of a rest, and it ended up back-firing a little bit.”
Mount Everett got the lead down to 14 points at half-time, and closed to within six late in the fourth quarter when Cassius Conaway converted a free throw with 2 minutes, 10 seconds on the clock.
But the Eagles came up empty on two foul shots on their next trip. And on the Mount Everett possession after that, Racette stole the ball and went the other way for two to make it 62-54. Then, after a defensive rebound by Meehan, Racette drained both ends of a one-and-one to push the lead to 10, 64-54, with 38 seconds on the clock.
On Tuesday, Drury takes on Monument Mountain for the Gene Wein Holiday Tournament title. Mount Everett will face Wahconah in the opener at 5:30 p.m.
Prior to Monday's Drury-Mount Everett game, the Blue Devils' boys and girls basketball teams honored the program's "Number One Basketball Fan," for whom the tournament was named.
Gene Wein died earlier this year -- 13 years after the holiday tourney was named in his honor.
"His passion for Drury transcenced to most every sport, especially basketball," Drury Principal Amy Meehan said. "His daughters' warnings and constant scolding of their father's night driving during snowstorms did not stop him from attending away games. Gene simply called or knocked on the doors of the coaches, met the team, hopped on the bus and traveled to South County and Western Mass tournament games."