Indians continue making progress on the hardwoods
It has been a learning experience on the fly for the young Indian River High School boys’ basketball team. A trial-by-fire, so to speak, but they are starting to make some great progress since the start of practices two months ago.
Head coach Devin Mann said he feels like his team is on the brink of turning a corner from those early-season struggles to being a team that will no longer be a pushover when the going gets tough. He said he is hopeful that the lessons learned through the early parts of this season will lead to more success with the turning of the calendar year.
This weekend, the Indians competed in the nationally-recognized Governor’s Challenge in Salisbury, Md., and came away feeling more confident, thanks to the efforts they turned in against two very strong opponents.
Despite the two losses, Mann said he feels like the weekend as a whole went well.
“To be honest, the weekend went great,” the first-year Indians coach said. “Athletically, we were overmatched in both games, but we are clearly better and more competitive than where we were two weeks ago.”
In the first Challenge game on Saturday, Dec. 28, the Indians dropped a 72-55 decision to Maryland’s Benjamin Franklin High School. Gage Spinks led the Indians with 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the floor, and connected on all seven of his foul shots. He added three rebounds and a pair of assists to his effort.
Malachi Waters chipped in with a double-figure scoring effort of 10 points to go along with four rebounds and two assists. Ja’siah Rounds went 4-for-4 from the floor for his eight points in the game.
The Indians fell behind 13-6 after the first quarter and saw their deficit increase to 29-20 at the half. Then Ben Franklin came out on fire in the third quarter, exploding for a 23-12 scoring advantage to take a 52-32 lead into the fourth.
However, IR dug deep and responded with a 23-20 fourth-quarter win for the final scoring margin, which was something that pleased Mann.
“I have removed the excuses of youth and inexperience from our 1-4 start that resulted in us facing four running clocks,” Mann added of the mercy rule employed in those games. “We will no longer use those excuses, and no matter the adversity, we will fight. Down 20-24, we cut the lead down to 11. Two weeks ago, a 24-point deficit would have turned into 40. I think January may have some surprises in store.”
On Monday, Dec. 30, the Indians faced New York’s Ballou High School in the bracket’s consolation game. IR fell to Ballou 57-44, but battled from the opening tip to the final horn.
Ballou held a 36-24 lead at the halftime intermission and made it 49-30 after the third quarter was over. However, the Indians found some rhythm, and started knocking down shots as they won the fourth quarter 14-8 for the final verdict on the scoreboard.
Spinks again led the charges for IR, with 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Rounds added nine points and five rebounds. Burns and Colby Hook also figured into the offensive efforts, with eight and seven points, respectively.
“Gage Spinks has grown tremendously,” continued Mann, adding that, on Monday, “I saw a very competitive, fearless look in his eyes. On the wings, Malachi Waters and Jamie Burns are gaining confidence. Ja’siah Rounds and Matthew Engel are starting to play tougher, and are competing more and more. We have grown as a unit.”
The small moral victories could be building momentum for the team to turn some of their early-season setbacks into victories on the scoreboard as the season progresses.
The Indians will finally play a home game, after six straight road contests to start the season, as they will host Early College High School on Tuesday, Jan. 7. Three more home dates will follow on Thursday, Jan. 9, (Lake Forest); Tuesday, Jan. 14, (Seaford); and Thursday, Jan. 16, (Woodbridge).
By Jason Feather