Thursday, Feb. 14 2013 2:53PM
Setting the tone
By Stephen Bubalo
Special to the Journal
It doesn’t take long for the Summit Christian Academy boys basketball team – especially the three starting guards – to know if its in-your-face full-court press is going to be effective.
It’s like they can sense it, they can feel it right from that first double team, that first tipped pass or that first steal that they’ve got an opponent right where they want them.
On Feb. 12, Metro Academy was that opponent and the Eagles’ full-court press behind the quickness of guards Taurin Hughes, Matt Collier and Garrett Gibson set the tone in the first quarter to help lead the Eagles to a 65-52 victory.
“Even the first possession of the game they threw a pass right to Taurin. That’s what pressure will do,” Eagles head coach Jake Kates said. “This group of seniors has set the tone since day one. Matt and Garrett have been at the front of the press for three years. They have that bulldog instinct. They’ve set the tone on defense all season long.”
Summit Christian hounded the Mavericks in the first quarter to the tune of six steals as they raced out to a 22-10 lead and never looked back.
“We play off each other so well on defense,” Hughes said of him and Gibson and Collier. “We feel when one another is about to get a steal. The pressure from the beginning was hard.”
The past few weeks have been a bit of a transformation for the Eagles. While they’ve continued to go hard on the defensive end since day one, and they showed that Tuesday night, when the game started to slow down they also showed off their new offensive game plan.
The game slowed in the second quarter, as the Eagles took a 32-22 lead into the half after a bit of a sluggish eight minutes. But the second half was much better, as even when the game wasn’t moving at breakneck speeds, their new three-out, two-in offense was executing.
“What we were running just didn’t seem to match our personnel,” Kates said of the offensive switch. “We’ve gone with a three-out, two-in motion. We had a couple of rough days in practice before the guys realized good things can happen when you throw it in the post.”
While the Eagles don’t boast much size in the post with Greg Nicoll and Henry Stratton, Kates said they have strength to go along with a good feel of what to do with the ball.
“It was a hard transition,” Hughes admitted. “We’ve been working on post moves and coming off screens. It’s transferred into the games. We’re looking for people and the big men are unselfish. We all have confidence in each other to take shots.”
The Eagles (14-9) were a well-oiled machine in the third quarter, scoring 19 points in a variety of ways – attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line, layups in the paint and even some kick outs and ball movement for a pair of three pointers – to extend their lead to 51-34.
“That’s come since we’ve moved to the three-out,” Kates said of his players getting settled into roles and being unselfish. “We struggled with shot selection before but now they’re seeing the benefits.”
Kates feels great about where is team is at with district play starting Monday. After a hot start to the season and then a rough middle, he thinks these last few weeks have brought out the best in his team at the right time.
“We’re in a good spot,” Kates said. “This is the best spot we’ve been in for the season. We’re gelling now. They’ve learned a lot of good lessons. I like my squad.”
And they’ve got some extra motivation after the coaches voted them as the No. 6 seed in the tournament. They’ll start play against Knob Noster at Higginsville High School with something to prove.
“Most definitely,” Hughes said of the seed being extra motivation. “We feel like we deserved a higher seed. We want to show that we deserved a better seed.”