Injuries to three of the boys’ varsity basketball team’s four leading scorers could pose a threat to the team’s title chances as it begins CIF playoffs tomorrow against Templeton. This comes following a double-overtime loss to rival Loyola in the regular season finale.
Forward Derick Newton ’14 suffered a shoulder injury against Chaminade on Jan. 9, and has been sidelined for the last 10 games of the regular season. Newton had led the team in scoring with 19.8 points per game. Head Coach Greg Hilliard said Newton would be able to return in the third round of the playoffs if the team wins its first two games. Hilliard said Newton’s absence has left a big void in the lineup.
“What we can’t do is duplicate his ability to score,” Hilliard said. “We can put in guys that rebound, play defense, set screens and do all the other parts of the game, but we can’t replace a guy who’s capable of getting close to 30 points. The playoffs are a time when your key guy, your go-to guy, gets the ball a little more often, and we could certainly use that. There’s no way to really replace him, but we’ve got four or five guys that might fill his role.”
Following Newton’s injury, forward Clinton Hooks ’13 helped pick up the slack, putting up five double-digit scoring performances. But Hooks went down with an ankle injury following the team’s loss against St. Francis on Feb. 1 and did not play in the game against Loyola. Hooks is not cleared to play in the team’s first playoff game today, Hilliard said.
Guard Mike Sheng ’14 went down with a hamstring injury in a non-league game against Serra on Jan. 26 and missed three games. Sheng, who is the Wolverines’ second-leading scorer, returned to start in the team’s last game against Loyola, but played limited minutes.
The guard came up big for the Wolverines in his return, dishing two passes to center Dave Winfield ’13 that resulted in layups to send the game in to both overtime and double overtime. Despite his apparent resurgence in the dying moments of the Loyola game, Sheng does not believe he’ll be fully healthy for the first playoff game tomorrow.
“I probably won’t be at one hundred percent,” Sheng said. “Hopefully we can win our first couple of games easily and I can get some rest, and I’ll be ready for the big game in the quarterfinals.”
Hilliard adjusted the team’s offense after losing Newton from a dribble-drive motion to a one-four high offense, which often utilizes the pick-and-roll to create open shots. The team stressed converting on offense as crucial for the playoffs.
“Those guys were three of our leading scorers, and we need to pick up some of that slack that we have now,” guard Francis Hyde ’13 said. “We need to find better shots, take open shots and knock them down. We’ve had good shots but we just haven’t been hitting as much, so we need to have a better shooting percentage throughout the game.”
“I think we just have to find another scorer,” Sheng added. “Alex [Copeland ’15] is filling that role, but we just have to be more efficient.”
Copeland is the Wolverines’ third-leading scorer and posted 10 points against Loyola.
Despite the damages to the roster, the Wolverines still believe in their ability to win in the playoffs.
“I’m very confident in these first two games,” Sheng said. “They aren’t usually too tough.”