By Judd Liebman
Despite being plagued by injuries, the boys’ basketball team took third place in the Pacific Shores tournament and lost to valley rival Taft High School by 14 on Saturday, Dec. 11.
The Wolverines started strong and executed a new game plan against the Taft Toreadors, Head Coach Greg Hilliard said. The Wolverines were up by two at the end of the first quarter, and the team’s new zone defense kept Taft close, as the Wolverines were only down by six at half time, but the short-handed team was unable to stay close as Taft pulled away. In the third quarter, Taft went on an 18-0 scoring run.
On offense, the team was told to disregard any chance of an offensive rebound to ensure that Taft’s fast break offense was held at bay because Taft scores at least half of their points on transition offense, Hilliard said.
The Wolverines currently have five players unable to play including shooting guard Danilo Dragovic ’11 (due to CIF ineligibility), forward Shawn Ma ’11, center Zena Edosomwan ’12, point guard Nick Firestone ’11, and freshman phenom Derick Newton, a forward.
“We played really well even though we have lost some important guys,” forward Josh Hearlihy ’12 said.
Working around the injuries has been challenging for the Wolverines.
“[The injured players] don’t get to participate because their injuries are serious,” Hilliard said. “They can only watch and watching doesn’t do it. If we can get them back in time to get them in basketball shape, we go from a very good team to better than that.”
“It is definitely a struggle to adapt to all of the injuries, especially because the [injured players] are a main part of the team,” Hearlihy said. “The injuries have made us play better together as a team.”
Starting 6’ 8″ center Edosomwan hurt his ankle after he landed on a teammate’s foot during practice. He joins other potential starters on the sideline including international student Dragovic who deemed ineligible by CIF due to transfer rules.
Dragovic is a key role in the team’s offense.
“[Losing Dragovic] takes a lot away from our team’s ability and our size and speed advantage,” Hearlihy said.
Michael Sheng ’14, who was brought up to varsity as a replacement for all of the injured players, and Jordan Butler ’11 have been running the point during the early tournament season.
“[Sheng] has been bringing it up with Jordan Butler,” Hilliard said. “With the two little guys out there we have ball handling but we give away a lot of size. The guards on these other teams are as quick and much more physical and stronger. They have done a very good job of holding their own and that’s why we have managed a couple of wins here early.”
The team’s league season starts on Jan. 5, and it has three more tournaments before then.
For league, Hearlihy said the Wolverines need to work on playing more like a team.
“The main problem is the inexperience as a team, chemistry wise. We aren’t really on the same page especially against the bigger teams,” he said.