LANGLEY --- Opponents coming into Midland Valley's gym know they'll see a 6-foot-9 center and a limited supply of consistent shooters, which sets the Mustangs up to struggle against a well-run zone defense. The resulting game plans are fairly predictable.
"We haven't seen a lot of man," Midland Valley coach Mark Snelgrove said. "Most teams play us zone because they think we can't shoot."
So it was a bit of a surprise when the Mustangs struggled against Airport's man-to-man defense Tuesday night. The visitors nearly pulled off an upset, but Midland Valley escaped with a 39-36 win in a sloppy contest.
Snelgrove called the game the "most frustrating win" of the season.
His starting five tore apart Airport's zone early in the game on the shoulders of Marquett Carr, who hit four 3-pointers and scored all of his team-leading 14 points before Airport abandoned its defensive plan two minutes into the second quarter.
The Mustangs scored 23 points in the remaining 22 minutes to just barely hold on against a Region 5-AAA opponent with a 5-11 record.
Midland Valley led by seven with 3:43 left but couldn't seal the win, and a potential game-tying 3-point attempt at the buzzer from Airport's Lance White skipped off the rim. In between, the Mustangs went 0 for 6 at the free-throw line, three of them on the front end of 1-and-1 situations, and allowed Airport a chance at the upset with poor defense late.
Midland Valley finished 1 for 10 from the free-throw line and 16 for 51 (31.4 percent) from the field.
Snelgrove blamed some of the poor play on the absence of starter Jamar Lott, whose ankle injury in practice Monday could force the senior to miss as much as four weeks.
"He's been scoring recently ... and he's our best defender," Snelgrove said.
The win kept Midland Valley (13-3) undefeated in the region at 2-0.
- The Midland Valley girls fell to Airport, 44-35. Katie Dyches scored 13 points for the Lady Mustangs, who trailed by just two midway through the third quarter. But Airport responded with a 10-0 run to pull away.
Jessica Ellison led Airport with 14 points.
Reach Billy Byler at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.