MOUNDSVILLE - Visiting Preston exploded for a 12-0 run at the outset of the fourth quarter to finally pull away and defeat cold-shooting John Marshall 61-36 Thursday night.
The game was competitive through the first eight minutes, which included three lead exchanges before Jimmy Galuskey drained a 3-pointer for the Knights' only trifecta of the evening, giving his team the lead for keeps at 13-11.
Taking advantage of the Monarchs first cold spell of the night to pull ahead 30-18 by halftime, Preston was on top 45-31 entering the fourth quarter.
Precise and disciplined on offense, the Knights then worked some defensive magic, turning several runouts into layups to pull away for their fourth victory in five games this season. It was Preston's fourth straight victory since an opening loss to Morgantown.
Two quick steals on the defensive end by the Knights led to Wesley Scott's layup and the second throw-down slam of the game by the ultra-smooth 6-foot-4 senior guard Mitchell Koch to start the final quarter. Another one-and-done shooting opportunity for John Marshall resulted in Spencer Lively's layup and Preston's first 20-point advantage at 51-31.
The Knights then turned three more fast break opportunities into layups by Galuskey, Lively and Brandon Black to go up 57-31. Tanner Filben managed the Monarchs first points of the fourth quarter by swishing a pair of free throws with 3:11 remaining but the game was already well out of reach. Alex Wharton cashed JM's only basket down the stretch, ending an 0-for-9 shooting dry spell.
''Preston's very disciplined and I knew if we got behind they would make us pay," Monarchs coach Bill Storm said. ''I thought in spurts at the beginning of the game we executed pretty well. In the second quarter, we had a stretch where we couldn't score. Then they were in charge and they know how to play with a lead. It was all over from that point.''
Most of John Marshall's offense came from Evan Magers and Tanner Filben. Both connected for 3-pointers in the opening quarter as John Marshall went up 6-2. But with Koch tossing in six points and Galuskey cashing his 3-pointer at the end of the period, Preston took command.
Magers went on to score 10 points in the third quarter to keep the Monarchs reasonably close as he finished the game with 19 points. Filben ended with 10. The only other John Marshall starter getting into the scoring column was Cole Sobutka on two field goals in the opening quarter.
Overall, the Monarchs were just 13 of 40 from the field. The hosts also were outrebounded 31-15 as they rarely got any second-shot opportunities.
''We only have three guys that score," Storm said. ''It's not that we didn't get good looks at the basket. The bottom line is if you don't have people that score, you are in trouble."
Preston got most of its offense from three players as Galuskey finished with 17 points, followed by Koch and Tyler Groves with 16 each.
Koch's leadership skills and solid play at both ends made things a lot easier for his teammates.
With Koch running the show out front, Preston had just four turnovers until the latter stages of the fourth quarter when both teams had backups on the court. The Knights turned the ball over just eight times, while John Marshall finished the game with 14 turnovers.
''Koch is a nice player and knows what he is doing out there," Storm praised. ''He gets the ball to their scorers and does a good job taking it to the basket."
The Monarchs return to the home court Saturday night when they host backyard rival Wheeling Park.