JOHNSTOWN, Ohio -- In a battle of unbeatens, it was a fourth-quarter push that made the difference as Johnstown sealed the game with an impressive free throw shooting performance , defeating DeSales 61-52 on Saturday night.
Although the score was just 24-18 at halftime, the offensive pace and efficiency picked up after the break due in large part to the Johnnies forward duo of West Liberty-commit Owen Hazelbaker and sophomore Jake Lusk. Those two proved to be too much to handle on the inside for the Stallions combining for 32 points on the night. Johnstown also received contributions from sophomore Gavin Foe and junior Matt Sayer who finished the game with six and eight points, respectively.
DeSales attempted to take advantage of their backcourt matchup with Kobe Righter and Kayin Derden, but their heavily reliant three-point shooting was held in check as Johnstown’s defense was keyed into their movements. Both finished the game with double figures, but were forced to take tough shots for a majority of the game.
Owen Hazelbaker (6’7” F / Johnstown / 2019):
Clearly the focal point of DeSales’ scouting report, Hazelbaker had to work for every single one of his 18 points, consistently seeing double teams in the low post. Handling it like the veteran the senior is, he was very patient under pressure and was able to make smart reads and showcase some passing vision to the weak side corner. On the other side of the ball, Hazelbaker was able to show consistent rim protection and great instincts on weak and strong side rim rotations whenever the Stallions drove inside. Additionally, he was an incredible communicator within the half-court defense being able to quarterback his perimeter defenders from the middle of the floor.
Kayin Derden (6’2” CG / DeSales / 2019):
Derden has been quite the cover at 270 Hoops so far this season, and it is impossible not to be impressed with the combo guard’s offensive game. The senior bounced back from a rough first half performance, scoring 12 points of his 15 points in the second half. His ability to move without the ball was phenomenal with two of his three makes from the outside coming off movement. The Stallion guard works off ball screens tremendously, being able to set his defender up before running off the screen and reading the screen to know when to fade into the corner on the wing when his defender cheats the action. He plays off the threat of his shot as well and that allows him to get into the lane without elite ball handling or speed.
Derden has mastered his most marketable collegiate skill and his shooting ability is translatable to shoot in all three facets whether it is pulling up, off movement, or spotting up.
Desmond Watson (6’4” WF / DeSales / 2021):
Watson was relatively quiet in this game only scoring two points, however he was able to create open looks for himself. With a phenomenal frame for his age, nimble footwork, and ball handling coordination, the young prospect had two very impressive drives from the mid-post early in the first quarter on Johnstown star Owen Hazelbaker. He also flashed some defensive versatility being able to successfully switch onto any Johnstown perimeter player with quick hips, feet, and recovery speed.
With his size, movement ability, and versatile on ball defensive potential Watson is a name to keep an eye on over the next few years. With an improved shooting stroke and continued work on his already promising handle Watson’s does have potential to be a three-and-D wing with more the satisfactory collegiate size.