An improbable star: Mullins pours in career-high 35 points to power Hobart over South Central
HOBART -- As Keith Mullins racked up basket after basket for Hobart on Wednesday against South Central, at least a few fans in the Brickyard started scrolling on their phones to the Brickies' Max Preps account to get a little background on the 6-foot-4 junior.
To their surprise, they discovered that Mullins had scored eight total points in Hobart's first two games.
"Keith put together a pretty good week of practice, so we put him in the rotation," coach Michael Brown said.
That and the Satellites' game plan to contain leading scorer Jaydon Hence added up to an improbable career night for Mullins, who stashed 35 points to power the Brickies' 67-48 victory.
"I told (Brown) after the game this is why you've got to feed the post," Mullins said. "He said, I guess you weren't wrong. When they started playing up more on Hence's side, I would go to his side. They would be too busy helping out on Hence, so I had an easy post-up. My teammates were there, they were able to see me, feed me the ball, I was able to work with it and make shots. We were just ready for this. Coach Brown had us practicing. We had to come out and show it."
Mullins started Hobart's scrimmage against Lake Central, but saw limited minutes versus Boone Grove and River Forest before earning his way back into the lineup.
"We challenged him to play tougher, and he answered the challenge," Brown said. "I was proud of him. He played hard. He earned it. The thing I liked was he was active defensively, he rebounded, he blocked some shots, he made some plays out on the perimeter. He did it all. We knew they played very hard, very aggressive, but we knew we had the size advantage. Our guards weren't doing a great job of getting it into him. We just emphasized that more. We wanted to throw the ball inside. Sometimes you say that and they don't execute it. They took the message. They adjusted on the fly. It's a credit to them."
S.C. coach Eric Speer was happy with the defense on Hence, but they had no answer for plan B, playing without Alex Newburn, a primary post defender on the undersized team.
"The game plan was to take Hence away and our kids did a great job," Speer said. "We talked about, let's make other guys beat us, and they did. He doesn't usually go inside like that. They utilized their mismatch, we tried to adjust at halftime, but it's high school kids, it's hard to get that adjustment going. The way we play leaves (the post) vulnerable. The second half, I said, let's sink in a little bit, but what we've been teaching is, get out, extend, so it's hard to bring that back. Alex would've helped. He's strong, physical."
The 35 points more than doubled Mullins' prior high, 16 against River Forest last year, when he averaged 6.2 points per game over 12 games. He scored 28 in a freshman game.
"He deserves all the credit," Speer said. "He played so well out of what he normally does. I'm not upset. I'm actually happy for him. I know what it's like to play one game like that. He kicked our (butt)."
Brown, who had a career-high of 36 as a Brickie, said he caught some good-natured grief for taking out Mullins in the fourth quarter, at which point the outcome was well in hand.
"People were telling I took him out for a reason," Brown said. "He was close. I was rooting for him."
Mullins had 20 at the half, but the Satellites managed to stay within 33-30 behind a trio of treys (two by Sam Haschel) and an eight-point second quarter by Tony Guevara.
Hobart went right back to Mullins to start the second half as he pounded S.C. (1-1) for 11 third-quarter points, including a pair of and-ones.
"I thought we didn't respond well to their run," Speer said. "They're very physical, we matched that, but we got out of sorts. When we're not getting stops, we're not getting out and running. We stopped running our offense, we stopped getting in the lane, we started a little bit of one on five. I called a couple timeouts, we talked about it, but we were already out of it at that point."
The tireless Guevara scored 18 points despite being bandaged early in the game for a cut hand, courtesy of one of Hence's tooth, which he lost in a rebound scrum.
Miki Djankovich backed Mullins for the Brickies (2-1).
"We're a work in progress," Brown said. "Most of them are football guys, so we're still trying to get their legs in shape. We'll get better as they do. We've come a long way since Boone Grove."