DALLAS TWP. – Mark Belenski has been searching for the right combination through much of his first month as Dallas head boys basketball coach.
Belenski has made it clear that he will change the starting lineup according to practice performance and alter the planned rotation within a game based on performance that night.
Ben Donahue was the ninth Mountaineer to step on the floor Dec. 22 in the Black and Blue Rivalry Trophy game, but he wound up having the biggest impact.
Donahue played less than half the game, but had plenty of time to have a major impact on the outcome as the Dallas bench outproduced its Lake-Lehman counterparts and its own starting lineup.
The 6-foot senior guard scored a season-high 16 points while leading Dallas to an 81-63 victory and their first win in four games since the trophy was created.
“I haven’t started, but I’m happy with it,” Donahue said. “My job is just to go in and do whatever I can to help everybody.”
Against the Black Knights, Donahue made the difference with his instant offense.
All 16 of his points came in the second quarter, during two bursts that ultimately decided the game.
Lake-Lehman was on a 10-2 run for an 18-15 lead when Donahue came off the bench for the first time with 6:22 left in the half.
Immediately after entering the game, Donahue scored on a baseline drive and an 18-footer from the right side in the next 30 seconds to erase the last Dallas deficit. He scored 10 points in his first 3:08 on the floor for a 32-24 lead.
“We picked up the tempo and went with pressure,” Belenski said.
Lake-Lehman did its best to slow the Dallas momentum, but the Mountaineers closed the half on a 12-1 run, including the last eight points in the final 51.7 seconds. Donahue had the final six of those points in less than 25 seconds, hitting three of four free throws then making a 3-pointer for the 50-31 halftime lead.
“We were getting steals on the press and I got hit in the corner a couple of times,” Donahue said. “I was just feeling my shot.”
Donahue was 4-for-4 from the floor and 7-for-10 from the line in the quarter. He started the second half, but did not add any more points.
When he eventually left the game after three quarters, Donahue had helped Dallas to a 50-25 advantage in the 14:22 he was on the floor. During the 17:38 he was out, Lake-Lehman had a 38-31 edge.
The Dallas bench outscored Lake-Lehman’s, 59-16.
Dylan Gattuso and Nick Kocher, two more subs, were the second- and third-leading scorers for Dallas with 10 and nine points.
“We’re still searching,” Belenski said. “Every night, it might be a different starting lineup.
“It depends how you practice and who’s playing well.”
Belenski said he will aim for an eight-player rotation as the team moves into league play, but won’t hesitate to go beyond that if he sees the right sign, such as a big effort in the junior varsity game.
Jay Bittner and Tanner Gattuso were the most productive starters for Dallas (2-5) against Lake-Lehman. Bittner had eight points, four assists and three steals. Tanner Gattuso had seven points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Lake-Lehman won the first three games, by a total of 33 points, since the Black and Blue Trophy was created in 2012.
The Black Knights (1-6) were led by Jacob Corey with 12 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots. Joey Vigil led their bench with 11 points and four steals.
Cole Spencer had 13 points and nine rebounds before fouling out. C.J. Cercone had 10 points.