“We did need one of those validation wins to prove Malvern is that good,” said Malvern head coach Dennis Tucci. “To come up to the city and play on this stage, it was a great opportunity to show ourselves to people who don’t know much about us. And to beat a team that was 10-2 and as talented as Campbell should show people we’re for real.”
The setting for the Pizza Oven Classic tournament at North Canton Hoover High School at first was a bit of a culture shock for the boys from the small town school in rural Stark County.
“When we walked into the gym it was like Hoosiers,” said Malvern guard Tyler Tucci. “It was so much bigger and so different then all the small schools play against.”
The younger Tucci also believed that this was a very important game to show where Malvern (14-0) stood as a team.
“I think it should make a statement,” said Tucci. “We’ve already beaten Garaway and there are no other teams with winning records on our schedule, we needed a win like this against a real good team.”
The big stage was also fitting for a Malvern milestone. Needing just 15 points to reach 1,000 career points, Trevor Halter hit eclipsed the mark with a lay up in the fourth quarter.
“It was nice to get it this game,” Halter said. “Coming in I knew I wanted to get it here.”
It was the second time in three games that Malvern was able to celebrate a 1,000 point scorer as Tucci accomplished the feat two games previously. Also a third Hornet player is within striking distance as forward Zak Kapron is less then 40 points away.
The big three for Malvern led the way against the Red Devils. Kapron led the team with 27 points. Tucci added 24 and Halter scored 21.
The road to Malvern’s fourteenth victory wasn’t easy against the young Campbell team. The Red Devils went toe-to-toe with the hot shooting Hornets for most of the evening. The lead changed hands eight times during the course of the game until Malvern broke open a 53-53 tie in the third quarter with an 8-2 run to take a six point lead into the fourth quarter.
Coach Tucci felt that the pace of the game was also valuable as a growing experience for his team as they prepare for a tournament run.
“We wanted to see, if we see another team on the tournament trail, if we need to adjust our pace,” said Tucci. “We like to play that style and wondered how we could keep up with a team who likes to run too.”
In the fourth quarter, the Hornets were finally able to pull away as Tyler Tucci hit two three point shots to stretch out the lead and near perfect foul shooting was enough to put the game away.
Malvern hit their first 22 foul shots they attempted until Halter missed one in the closing seconds. As a team the Hornets finished 23-for-24 from the foul stripe.
“I heard a lot about it in their (the locker room) already,” Halter said of the missed foul shot.
“We were teasing him, he actually has the best foul shooting percentage of all of us,” said Tyler Tucci. “But we were asking who the best shooter was and Trevor said he was but we’re like, ‘No you can’t be, you missed one out there’.”
Campbell was led on the night by sophomore Jerah’me Williams who scored 27 points.
The Red Devils fall to 10-3 on the season and will have their second straight game against an undefeated opponent on Tuesday night as they challenge league rival Poland.