WILKES-BARRE — King's got the aggressiveness it was looking for. The buckets simply didn't follow.
Monarchs coach J.P. Andrejko had challenged top scorers Kyle Hammonds and Matt Fiorino to take command of the offense, and the duo did just that Wednesday.
But missed opportunities at the rim early on dug King's too deep a hole in an 81-66 loss to Scranton in the opening game of the Cross County Challenge at the Marts Center.
Hammonds finished with a game-high 23 points and kept King's afloat early in the second half.
He was aggressive tonight and he was looking for the shot, Andrejko said. The last couple games, he and Matty I think had been very passive. They were passing up shots. At least tonight they came out and they were looking to score.
We need those two guys to score if we're going to compete.
After one particularly smooth three midway through the second half, Hammonds had more than half of the Monarchs' 44 points. He was the only King's player to hit a field goal in the first nine minutes of the frame.
Hammonds got some offensive support from Fiorino (14 points) and Mike Foster (10) to help King's pull within 11, but the Monarchs (5-7) got no closer.
Scranton shot 56 percent from the floor and had four players finish in double figures, led by Ross Danzig's 16 points. Defensively, the Royals (8-3) held Hammonds scoreless over the final 10 minutes of the game.
Hammonds got going and he started lighting it up, Scranton coach Carl Danzig said. We did a good job of finally stopping him – he was a one-man show. But once we got him under control, we were able to pull away.
We were able to capitalize on some decent looks, and that kind of broke their back a little bit I think.
A sluggish start for both sides gave way to an impressive burst by the Royals midway through the first half, using a 27-4 run, punctuated by three straight threes to take an early 35-13 lead.
We miss some shots and all of the sudden we're down 10, Andrejko said. And there was no reason to be down 10. … We got down against a good team and we struggled to get back.
King's tightened on defense in the final seven minutes to cut the deficit to 41-28 at the break.
The Monarchs opened the new year with a few lineup changes, as junior point guard Joe Caffrey made his first career start. That allowed Fiorino to move back to the two-spot he's manned for much of his time at King's.
Senior forward Ian Oakley also made his season debut in the starting lineup and chipped in seven points.
KING'S (66): Matt Fiorino 4-11 4-4 14, Joe Caffrey 0-3 0-0 0, Kyle Hammonds 9-15 1-2 23, Tom Heston 3-4 1-4 7, Ian Oakley 2-4 3-5 7, Alex Cardoza 0-0 0-0 0, Rich Douglas 0-0 0-1 0, Connor Hughes 0-0 0-0 0, Tim O'Shea 1-7 0-2 2, Mike Foster 4-9 2-3 10, Keyton Winder 0-0 0-0 0, Pat O'Donnell 1-3 1-1 3. Totals 24-56 12-22 66.
SCRANTON (81): Ross Danzig 4-6 6-6 16, Tommy Morgan 5-9 2-4 14, Travis Farrell 4-7 3-4 13, Tim Lavelle 2-6 0-0 6, Brendan Boken 6-9 3-4 15, Justin Klingman 0-0 0-0 0, Mike Marchman 0-0 0-0 0, Michael Barr 1-5 0-1 3, Brian Farrell 0-0 0-0 0, Michael Fee 0-0 0-0 0, Jason Pierce 3-4 0-0 6, Sam Palermo 0-0 0-0 0, Kyle Ranck 3-4 0-0 8, Billy Garneau 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-50 14-19 66.
Halftime— Scranton, 41-28
3-point field goals— KC 6-20 (Hammonds 4-8, Fiorino 2-8, Caffrey 0-1, Foster 0-3); US 11-27 (Danzig 2-3, Ranck 2-3, T. Farrell 2-4, Morgan 2-5, Lavelle 2-6, Barr 1-5, Boken 0-1)