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HIGH-FLYING HAYDEN: Smith Has Another Big Game for Union in Pivotal KSAC Victory Over Moniteau

RIMERSBURG, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Hayden Smith missed nearly three weeks recently because of illness.

When the senior on the Union boys basketball team returned, he was a new Hayden Smith.

Well, sort of.

“He was the Hayden Smith I always thought he could be,” said Union coach Eric Mortimer.

(Pictured above, Hayden Smith)

Smith scored 21 points in a loss to Karns City on Wednesday and followed that up on Friday night with another big game, scoring 19 against Moniteau in a 48-31 win.

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.

Smith scored 11 points in the first quarter to help the Golden Knights get going.

“He’s a good shooter. He hustles,” Mortimer said of Smith, “and he can jump.”

Smith certainly can.

He’s the two-time PIAA Class 2A champion in the high jump. That’s always been his No. 1 sport, but he’s always played basketball, too.

Recently, he has made an impact on the court like he has in the high jump.

“It feels great,” Smith said. “Honestly, with the help of (assistant coach Jeff Shirey) finally telling me, ‘Don’t be afraid. Just be yourself like you were in rec ball.’ It’s really helped me.”

Smith has been able to get out of his own head and play free and loose.

He did so against Moniteau, hitting a pair of 3-pointers and also showing off his ability to shoot from the mid-range, post up and get to the rim.

Smith scored in a variety of ways and is giving the Golden Knights yet another weapon.

“That’s going to help us out,” Mortimer said. “This was a big win for us tonight.”

Dawson Camper also had a big night for Union with nine points and 15 rebounds.

Trey Fleming added 11 points.

The Union defense also contributed to a woeful shooting night for Moniteau, which was held to just one point in the third quarter and 10 in the second half.

The Warriors were already down 30-21 at the break before the offensive struggles completely took hold.

“I don’t remember the last time I had a team score just 10 points in a half,” said Moniteau coach Mike Jewart. “These guys, I’m just telling them it’s just one of those nights because I thought we played hard. I thought we stayed engaged the entire time. It’s not like they weren’t giving the effort. It’s not like we didn’t create good shots for our offense.”

Moniteau did have open looks and point guard Andrew Zepeda was able to penetrate and get to the rim. Problem was for the Warriors nothing was falling.

Zepeda scored seven to lead Moniteau.

“There was a lid on the basket,” Jewart said. “It’s not like they were bad shots. They were all good shots and a lot of them went partway down and came back out. I’ve just never seen that before.”

Behind Smith’s flurry of points in the first, Union led 13-10.

Then the Golden Knights went on an 8-2 run to push the lead to nine. Moniteau could only get as close as seven the rest of the way.

“I definitely get nervous before games,” Smith said, smiling. “You know, it’s because it’s a team thing. You want to play your role and you want to be the best that you can be. We played really well tonight as a team. We moved the ball around and tried to make crisp passes. It was good night for us.”

It certainly was.

The win was a pivotal one for Union in the KSAC, moving the Golden Knights to 9-6 overall and 6-2 in the conference.

It was just as disheartening of a loss for Moniteau, which fell to 4-7 and 3-3 in the KSAC.

“This one hurts a little bit — it’s a pretty big loss,” Jewart said. “It puts us behind the eight-ball.”

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Redbank Valley, Keystone, and Union/A-C Valley sports coverage on Explore and is brought to you by Heeter Lumber.