As a coach and an administrator in a program you’ve seen develop from birth, it is very refreshing when the growth is evident on and off the court. This past weekend in Kalamazoo, that growth was present throughout the age divisions.
Last week, the u17 started off on the right foot finally with a win and this week they continued that trend. Despite missing their workhorse inside, the team outworked their MBA opponent, en route to an 11 point win. Thomas Cook exploded for 22 points and Austin Harless also put in 18. Both had 4 threes in that game. Tyler Rose and Ricky Holmes III chipped in 10 each. Saturday morning brought new challenges, but the guys were up to the task. Led by Holmes’ tomahawk dunk, we powered by The Ville by 15. That 15 number would be a theme this weekend as the next game we found ourselves down by 15 in the first half versus WML-Purple. The boys clawed back and eventually pulled out a 14-point victory. Defense was the name of the game and Holmes led the way with 18 points and 5 steals. Devon Williams pitched in 11, Cook 9, Rose 8, and Harless 7. This sent them to first place in the pool and a date Sunday morning with Parallel 45. Again, we saw 15 come up again in the 67-52 victory. Harless dropped 17 and made the team begin face guarding him to stop him. Paris Partee put in 12, Holmes and Eagan Bayer had 7 (Holmes with two more huge dunks) and four other guys with 5 points each. It was a very balanced game. In the quarterfinal matchup versus Hoopgrind, we again found ourselves down by 15 points n the first half. We climbed back within 1 a couple times, but couldn’t quite get over the hump in the 68-74 loss. Partee led the way with 15, Holmes 14, Cook 13, Harless 9, and Rose 8. We are never satisfied in defeat, but a 4-1 weekend is another step in the right direction.
The U16 boys found their way this weekend with their hard work finally paying off in getting some wins. Much like the u17 team, they found themselves down 15 in their first game versus WM Elite. Instituting a press that they had just learned in practice,. they were able to pull out the win 69-67 with Marlando Wade dropping the clutch free throws to win it! Kennedy Martin led with 21 (including 5 threes), Wade 16, and Dominic Reggio chipped in 15! They rode that wave into Saturday morning where they were able to gut out a win in their second pool game. The third game in the pool found them up against MBA-Guyton in a back-and-forth clash. The guys were able to pull off a 6 point win despite missing their biggest player due to prior commitments. That said, James Richardson Jr. broke out of his “pass-only” mentality and put in 18 points. Martin had 16, while Demetrius Miller and Reggio each had 9. Unfortunately, despite a 3-0 start and first place in the pool, a Saturday evening game loomed and the gas tank was on empty for the guys who had played so big all day. A 7-point loss at the hands of the Macomb County Cougars closed their tournament. However, big, big steps were made toward consistency and I trust that these young men know that the bar has been raised!
Sometimes I wish that this team could just add one more piece to the puzzle. They are so close to also seeing their hard work pay off in victories. They lost a tough battle 59-60 in game one versus the WML-Purple squad. Azonte’ Burks was a man inside, showing the grace and footwork of an elite player of the future. Noah Baylis is easily the best shooter in his age range and it is probably not close. Now the other teams all know it too so they are resorting to rough play to try to stop him, but he still had a solid performance. The second game was a tough one against a MBA-National squad that was just big. Much like the third game loss to WM Elite, the guys fought so hard to make up for their lack of size and strength, but came up a bit short. However, they turned the corner in the first game of pool play and grabbed a 56-36 win over ZBA in blowout fashion! Unfortunately, they ran into a 6’9″ player in the next game and that size was too much to overcome in the sweet sixteen loss to the Kalamazoo Legends. Sometimes in the process of learning how to win you have to learn that you CAN win. I believe they learned that this weekend.
Well, we’re off to Mount Pleasant next weekend. Stay tuned for schedules and dates!