Sunday, December 13, 2009

Great start!

As Monday came, the different emotions started to set it for the season. We had been working hard for 3 weeks and it was finally game week. From nerves, to being anxious, to the makes the clock move slower than you want...I was ready for Wednesday on Monday. I promised our boys that this season, no matter what it takes, I will have them as prepared for each game as I possibly can. Part of that plan is having tape/film on every team we are going to play before we play them. The problem is that sometimes it is hard to find able volunteers to video another game for us because they want to be at our games, but we always manage to figure out a way. Being that we opened up on Wednesday vs. Marine City, it allowed me to drive to Marine City Monday night (they opened vs. Algonac Monday) to scout/film them myself. We sat down behind Marine City's bench and I pulled out the camera to start filming, and guess what? Yep, it wouldn't work. I couldn't get it to work for anything. So I ended up taking about 5 pages of notes and it was enough, I thought, to have us prepared. A few of the players wanted to go with me, so I had a car full that went to see Marine City play. Needless to say, we did not leave Marine City Gym overly impressed. As I prepared a game plan for Marine City Tuesday to go over with boys, I found it somewhat easy. Marine City didn't do anything complex at all and I knew if our kids played hard, we would win. We knew everything they were going to do, what it was called and who was going to do it. The kids opened the season with a bang and played extremely hard in my opinion. We were tough on the defensive end. Kids were diving on the floor, sacrificing, giving everything they had to get the win. Our perimeter players (Rob, Dom, Joe, Matt, Garrett, Steve) gave the Marine City guards fits with the intensity of the defense they were playing. In the locker before the game, I told the kids that there was no doubt in my mind Marine City would do something "gimmicky" to stop Joe...and sure enough they did. They played the entire 32 minutes in a "Box and 1" defense. A Box and 1 is a defense where 4 players play a 2-2 or box shaped zone defense and the 5th player face guards the other teams best player. It can be effective, especially if the player being face guarded gets frustrated and starts forcing things. Well I thought it was step in the right direction for us. I thought Joe did a very good job of keeping his composure and not trying to do "too much". He ended up with 16 points, which is very respectable when the other team is doing everything in their power to stop you. When a team goes Box and 1 on you, it is the ultimate sign of respect. Especially the first game of the season. Joe handled it well. Meanwhile we had numerous other players step up to help him out. Now, did we shoot too many 3's in the first quarter and half.....YES! We are a good shooting team but we went 2-14 from the arc in the first half. I'll chalk it up for first game jitters, but we needed to settle down a bit and get the ball to the basket. We only shot 4 threes in the second half and slowed down the offense...I would have loved to score 60 and win by 30 but we did the right thing and didn't run the score up on them. We had four players play significant minutes Wednesday for the first time on the varsity. Tyler Marwin, James Steffen and Steve O'connell played their first varsity games and did a pretty good job overall. We have a long way to go, but they did ok. They all played hard, and that's all I ask. Specifically, Steve O. did a great job with his intensity on his perimeter defense. Matt Cawley didn't play many significant minutes last season on the varsity, but that will be changing this season. I put Matt in in the 1st quarter to do what he hard, tough and aggressive and he didn't let me down. He did a great job. The scoring went as follows: Joe Baker - 21, Garrett Matthews - 7, Rob Feeman - 5, Dominic Davis - 7, Tyler Marwin - 4, Matt Cawley - 2, Steve O'connell - 2, Steve Hoffman - 2.

Prior to the game Wednesday I announced to the team who the team captains were. I had the team vote for their peers and I was proud of how they voted. They did the right thing and I thought it was only fitting to have the 4 returning seniors as captains: Rob Feeman, Dom Davis, Garrett Matthews and Matt Cawley. I am proud to have them as our captains!

After our 21 point win to open the season vs. Marine City, I told the kids in the locker room that we did something we didn't do last season. We beat a team we were supposed to beat and we beat them bad. Everyone knows how much I love my team from last year, but we struggled to put teams away and always "made it a game", even losing some we shouldn't. Wednesday was a good sign, we put them away in the 3rd quarter and kept our "heel on their throat".

Unfortunately for us, we only have 1 day between most games, which gives us very little time to prepare. So immediately following our game Wednesday, our JV Assistant Coach (Brian Litwin) returned from filming Warren Mott and handed me a tape before I left the gym. We had Warren Mott on the schedule Friday night at their place. Warren Mott returns every starter from an 18-2 conference championship season and state rankings. They start a 6'6" 250 lb. kid who is headed to Penn State next year on a football scholarship and a 6'7" player who will play college basketball next year somewhere. They have 3 quick 6'0" guards with experience, so we had our work cut out for us, as they anticipated going 20-0 this season and making a deep run in the playoffs. I went home and immediately started breaking down the tape and cut it to a DVD. I watched it 4 times to make sure I knew their tendencies. I had film session with the boys that afternoon before practice and we went over the scouting report. I told the boys that each time I watched Mott on tape, I looked at them as weaker and weaker. I thought they were fake...everything they did was fake and with little toughness and energy. I knew we had a chance. Most people probably didn't think we had a chance at all...we lost by 30 last year. We got the kids prepared and ready to go and I felt they felt confident. I told them in the locker room before the game that from the most sincere depths of my heart and soul, I truly believed we can beat them. As long as they knew that and believed it themselves, I knew we would be in the game and have our chances. I also told them that I knew for a fact they didn't scout us and probably had no game plan for us...but we were going to make them have to adjust to us....they had to worry about us! As we tipped off and started the game, I had a feeling it was going to be a game...I saw no fear in any of my kids eyes. They didn't care how big they were or how bad we got beat last year, they were ready. We may have been the only 14 in the gym that thought we had a chance.

By the time the 1st quarter was over, it was a ball game...they didn't know what they were in for. We lead 11-8 and we had them running. We were prepared for everything they did and you could tell that they had know idea who we were just by how they matched up with us. The kids were playing their hearts out already and giving me everything that they had. Joe lead us in the first quarter with 7 points and we subbed in Matt and Tyler in the first quarter to spell the starters and they kept the momentum going. James Steffen had to come out early after chipping his tooth, but he was ready to go back in the 2nd quarter. By halftime, we had the momentum and they had to adjust to us. Any good coach makes adjustments at halftime and I talked to the team about what I thought they would change, specifically taking a big man off Joe and putting a guard on him. Joe had 12 at halftime and we were leading 21-20 thanks to Garrett's smooth free throw shooting at the end of the half to put us back up 1. Man that kid can shoot a free throw! When we came out in the 2nd half I was stunned to see that they did not make 1 singular adjustment. I was shocked. So with that said, we continued to do what we were doing, with a few adjustments of our own, specifically sending Rob down to the post because of a mismatch. Rob took advantage of it and was tough as nails down there. We got up as much as 9 in the 3rd quarter and there was no doubt our boys knew this was our game to lose or win...not theirs. By the time the 4th quarter came, they switched to a man to man full court press to get back in the game and it worked. They hurried us into some turnovers and next thing you knew, it was tied. With under a minute to go, we had the ball at their end up 2 and I called a timeout. We ran a set play and Garrett threw a baseball pass to Rob that was about 1 inch too long and Rob couldn't get full control of it and missed the layup. That would have been the nail in the coffin, instead we fouled the 6'7" kid and he made both free throws. With :30 left they got the ball back and with 7 seconds they passed the ball to the big fella at the elbow and he went to shoot a jumper. It looked like Rob blocked his shot clean and they called a foul....he made 1 free throw. We had 1 timeout left and called it with 5 seconds to go. We had to go full court, which makes it tough, especially if the other team plays back on defense to prevent a deep pass. Dom got the inbounds and dribbled twice before lofting the perfect pass to Joe on the sideline. Joe went at the basket and they fouled him obvious call. Now there was 1.5 seconds left, both teams out of timeouts and our 90% free throw shooter at the line. Now let me back track, Tyler Marwin was in most of the 4th quarter because of his free throw shooting...he is about 80% and he made two huge free throws and had an even bigger offensive rebound put back. Joe stepped to the line for his two and I am quite confident neither free throw even hit the rim. We're up 2! They heave a desperation and game over! What a huge program win! That team may not lose again this year and we just dominated them. We lead the whole game and they didn't know what hit them. The kids were engulfed in emotion and I was overcome myself. By the time I got to the locker room, I couldn't fight back the tears and I all I wanted them to know was how incredibly proud of them I was. All 13 of them. They'll never forget that win, nor will I....never! One of the best feelings of my life. Joe finished with 21 and 7 rebounds, Rob - 9, Garrett - 7, Dom - 4, Tyler - 4 and James - 4.

Wednesday we did what we were supposed to do...Friday we did what weren't supposed to do and it feels great!

This Tuesday we're home vs. St. Clair and Thursday home vs. Marysville before our Christmas Tournament. Thanks for being there Friday and we'll see you all this week!

Go Trojans!

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