Coming into the Moneyball Shootout this past weekend, the MML u15 team had a 0-6 record in two previous tournaments. However, with only a 3-point loss in their final game of the Warriors Jam Fest, winning seemed only to be around the corner. Everyone wants to win; that’s why we run (see I Corinthians 9:24-25), but I placed an emphasis on getting better in this program and we stand by that. Some programs sacrifice everything in an effort to win right then, only to see years of dry talent pools hinder them moving forward. This group had never played together before and frankly had barely even heard of each other before and the challenge of fusing together a true team is a daunting one. Saturday at the Moneyball Shootout, the guys showed that they are becoming one though right on the fly.
Our first game was against the Saginaw Underdawgs, a relatively new program in part sponsored by the Oakland Raiders’ Lamar Woodley. We started out tentatively and allowed them to use their athleticism against us. Once we settled down, we began creating opportunities for each other simply by moving the ball up the floor without concern for our own offense. Adding Ricky Holmes III has been a big pickup for us. Putting in the position of PG that he has never really played before has been quite a transition for him as well. But, he and the team are all learning together. Many times in this contest, he broke through the Underdawgs press and set up teammates with open shots. One such teammate was Thomas Cook, who was lighting it up from the outside with three 3-point baskets. Trevor Bland and Paris Partee controlled the glass, while Matt Buschman and Tyler Rose seemed to do a bit of everything en route to a 4-point victory.
In game two on Saturday, we matched up against an Adidas-sponsored Michigan Mustangs team. Stepping in for me as coach for the first few minutes was Holly head coach Lance Bayliss (thank you sir!). We got off slow offensively, but defensively we were in control. Then our past issues reared their ugly heads, turnovers and missed layups. On 3 consecutive plays, the Mustangs stole a pass and went down court for a layup that hurt tremendously. At halftime, we were down 19-16 and frustrated. A determined group in the second half though got back to playing their games and decided to go for the win. The guards turned up the pressure on defense led by Holmes. His defense quickly rubbed off on every0ne else, including a big defensive stretch by Destin Julian whose hustle stopped a sure layup by the Mustangs and caused us to get one on the other end. Cook and Buschman took turns hitting 3’s from the corners with 3 a piece in the second half alone. It was Buschman’s 3 that put MML in the lead for good and Cook’s that really took the heart out of the Mustangs. A little bit of shaky free throw shooting by us made the game interesting, but the result was a 51-47 win. We more than doubled our offensive output in the second half with Cook finishing with 14 points (four 3’s), Buschman 11 points (three 3’s). and Bland adding 11 of his own. Rose and Holmes had 5 points a piece.
Finishing #1 in our pool moved us into bracket play on Sunday for the first time this spring. Unfortunately, we looked like it was our first time this spring in bracket play. The West Michigan Flight have annually been a tough opponent for us and this time was no different. They came out strong, out hustling us to each loose ball. When you add to that Bland picking up two quick fouls and Rose being unable to attend, we got ourselves into a tough spot early on. The hole we dug kept getting deeper, but we kept fighting. With a size advantage and Bland in foul trouble, the Flight attacked us inside. The second started out much like the first, and the lead reached the upper 20’s. Putting Bland at the PG for a while seemed to help some and we cut the lead to 15 a couple times, but each time the Flight would hit a couple huge shots from the outside to stop the runs. In the end, we took the loss 42-62 and bowed out of the tournament in the quarterfinals. Bland led with 12p, Holmes had 9, and Buschman and Partee had 8 respectively.
All in all, there were big strides made in MML’s effort to constantly improve. The will to win has kicked in and now permeates everyone. It will no longer be acceptable to play below this level as we continue to progress this summer. Good tournament guys, but always remember…”Good, better, best; don’t ever rest until your good is better than your best.” No time to rest.
Bland, Cook, Buschman
Holmes, Rose, Partee
Next tournament is this weekend in Kalamazoo. Please secure transportation prior to Friday. Also, remember that payment is PAST DUE. You must see me immediately if your fee has not been paid.