When it came down to it, Shadle Park High just didn’t have an answer for U-Hi’s Zach Martin. Or enough big guys.
Martin, a 6-foot-5 senior forward, scored a career-high-tying 28 points Thursday night – including nine consecutive in a key fourth quarter stretch – to lead the host Titans to a 64-47 victory and the District 8 boys title.
Both U-Hi (17-4) and Shadle (13-9) advance to next week’s regionals, but the Titans won’t have to travel Tuesday.
“I don’t like bus rides,” Martin said, his piece of district-title memorabilia – the net – tucked safely behind his left ear.
Maybe that’s why he scored 10 first-quarter points, helping the Titans to a quick 13-2 lead. And maybe that’s why he popped in a 20-footer to open the second half, stretching U-Hi’s four-point halftime edge to seven.
And maybe it’s why, when the Highlanders, having trailed by as many as 11, clawed back within six with 5 minutes, 30 seconds remaining, Martin drilled back-to-back 3-pointers and then added a three-point play inside, all within 55 seconds.
But more than likely it was because the Highlanders, who start three guards, were stuck shadowing Martin with a shorter player.
“We just have too many weapons and (Martin) is a matchup problem,” said U-Hi coach Garrick Phillips. “It’s kind of pick your poison. Zack scored a bunch tonight – (Brett) Bailey’s carried the scoring load most of the year – but Martin’s really, really deadly.”
With Shadle’s 6-7 Brett Boese matching up with the Titans’ leading scorer, the 6-5 Bailey (eight points), and 6-5 Nick Bettinson having to muscle inside with 6-5 Conner Johnson (10 points), Martin often was shooting over smaller defenders.
“We have enough scorers as it is,” Martin said. “It’s not one player. I just got lucky today.”
But when you are 9 of 12 from the field, as Martin was, luck isn’t that big a factor. He scored inside, he scored from the line (5 of 5 from there) and he scored outside, hitting 2 of 3 from beyond the arc. And, as he was quick to point out, when he was open, his teammates found him.
“We have so many dang weapons, it makes it hard to focus on anybody,” Phillips said. “I’ve said this many times, but I wouldn’t want to try to put together a plan to go against us.”
When Martin was on the bench in the first half, dealing with three fouls, Shadle played some zone. But when Zane McDonald and Martin were able to bury a couple of 3-pointers after halftime, it was back to man.
That’s what U-Hi played, and the Titans put together two second-half stretches – 4 scoreless minutes in the third quarter and a one-point, 3-minute stretch in the fourth – that helped them pull away.
Point guard Kionte Brown was Shadle’s best weapon in this one, scoring a team-high 15 points, while Boese added 13 and Bettinson another 11.