MADISON — Three games, three victories for the Orange County boys basketball team.
Coach Adam Utz’s team wrapped up a dominant first week of basketball with a 77-54 road victory over Madison County on Wednesday night.
The win marked the third victory away from home this season and the third in as many nights for the Hornets as Coach Adam Utz’s team got an early taste of what tournament basketball is all about.
“We knew coming into the year we were going to be athletic, and we’re trying to hang our hats on the defensive end,” Utz said. “We’re still not there. We still have some things to work through, but it helps us create some easy buckets on the offensive end.”
Orange County (3-0) had 10 players score in the game, including three in double figures. Sihle Mthethwa tallied a game-high 20 points to mark his third straight game in double figures.
The junior point guard had a triple double in the opener against William Monroe and chipped in a double-double Tuesday night against Stonewall Jackson (Quicksburg). On Wednesday, Mthethwa had seven rebounds, seven assists and four steals in addition to his 20 points.
A role player last season for the Hornets, Utz said Mthethwa has blossomed into a star player.
“Sihle is a natural born leader and that’s just in his DNA,” Utz said. “He’s just got the skill and the mindset that he’ll put everything else around that. I’m so impressed with what he’s done so far.”
J.J. MacDonald tallied 16 points, three rebounds and four steals and Jaylen Alexander finished with 13 points and six rebounds to lead a balanced attack.
“We’re going to have to rely on a bunch of guys,” Utz said. “I feel like we’ve got four or five or six guys that can score. On nights when certain guys are cold, hopefully some of those guys can step up.”
The Hornets struggled from the field early on Wednesday night, but bounced back in a big way with its play on the defensive end.
With the game tied 6-6 with three minutes left in the first quarter, Orange County closed the period on a 16-3 run to put the game out of reach early. Jireek Washington put an exclamation point when he sank a 65-foot shot at the buzzer. After the ball went in, his teammates mobbed him before he could get back on the bench.
Washington’s shot energized the team as they pulled away in the second quarter. Chance Williams and Mthethwa tallied five points apiece as Orange County build a commanding 42-20 lead at intermission.
Madison County (0-1) never really mounted a challenge in the second half, but did show growth in its season debut.
Khalid West finished with a team-high 12 points to lead the Mountaineers. A.J. Knighton and Makainen Woodward each came off the bench to finish with nine points in the losing effort.
For Orange County, Utz hopes to carry the momentum into next week when the Hornets face Eastern View in their home opener.
“Team basketball is going to be key for Orange County,” Utz said. “I think we’re well on our way to playing as a team and I think that’s going to be important down the stretch for us.”