By Alex Leichenger
Downtrodden after both a shocking home loss to Alemany and a one-sided defeat at the hands of Loyola, the boys’ basketball team enters the postseason with expectations much more reserved than they were two and a half weeks ago.
The team has been thrown off-kilter ever since opponents figured out that they can hound Damiene Cain ’11 and Zena Edosomwan ’12 down low and dare the Wolverines to hoist perimeter shots. Loyola executed the strategy masterfully in a 71-51 rout Feb. 4, holding Cain and Edosomwan to 20 points combined, while the Wolverines shot a porous 34 percent from the field and hit only three of 14 attempts from beyond the arc.
Three days later, Crespi had the same gameplan working through three quarters before the referees started whistling defenders trying to front Cain in the post.
Against Alemany, the Wolverines’ downfall was an unsightly third quarter plagued by ill-advised passes, several from trying to fit the ball into tight spots down low.
Nicky Firestone ’11 could be the antidote to the Wolverines’ perimeter shooting problem (see page C5) but the team’s most important player heading into playoffs is undoubtedly Cain.
In games when Cain is the best player on the floor, the Wolverines are also at their best. Likewise, they are not the same when the 6’7″ forward struggles. Among the Wolverines’ three leading scorers, Cain is the only one who exhibited significant statistical differences between wins and losses in Mission League play.
Edosomwan averaged 17 points per game in 10 league wins and 17.5 in two losses. Josh Hearlihy ’12 scored 15.5 in wins and 15 in losses.
The chasm in production was far more drastic with Cain, who averaged 16 points per game in wins but a mere nine in the two losses.
Cain has a sound arsenal in the post and can hit jumpers all the way out to the three-point line. When he is actively involved, his diversified offensive skill set aids the flow of the Wolverine offense.
With Cain and adept dribble penetrators like Butler and Michael Sheng ’14, the team should be running far more high pick-and-rolls. The pick-and-roll would prevent opposing teams from clogging the paint on Cain and Edosomwan and reduce turnovers caused by the Wolverines forcing the ball into heavy interior traffic.
The Wolverines need to look for Cain early and often, but Cain must also make more of an effort to assert himself. A remarkably unselfish player, Cain is the rare big man who looks to set up his teammates as much or more than he looks to set up himself.
When the Wolverines do feed him the ball in the post, Cain’s first instinct is often to wait and draw a double team before finding the open man for a shot. But since perimeter shooting is not a strength of this team, Cain should buckle down and seek the hoop. Almost every time Cain has had the ball in pressure situations this year, he has delivered with a soft jump hook, a deft spin move or a baseline jumper that got nothing but net.
Up until now, Cain has probably been the best glue guy in Mission League history. But the Wolverines are going to need more than that if they have a state title on their minds.
In another observation of mine from the stands, this fan behavior ordeal is getting slightly ridiculous. The Fanatics have disagreed with the Fan Behavior and Sportsmanship Review Committee’s proposals from the get-go, but despite their misgivings, they have reformed the atmosphere at games a significant extent.
Yet the rampant finger-wagging of some faculty at Fanatics persists through simple noisemaking during opponents’ free throws or borderline chants such as “nuts and bolts, we got screwed.”
The Fan Behavior Committee has an admirable mission to bring our school above the fray of personal attacks that has come to dominate modern-day fandom. But the faculty undermine their objective when they shake their heads in dismay at every single cheer that is not within their autocratic standard for political correctness.
It deflates the fans who are merely trying to enjoy themselves and not chanting anything remotely beyond clever and acceptable sports banter. If the Committee wants the Fanatics to take its proposals seriously, then it needs to start taking the Fanatics seriously. As long as the Fanatics keep the truly offensive chants out-of-bounds, then they deserve to be able to cheer without having to spend more time looking over their shoulders than watching the games in front of them, and God forbid, having a little fun on school nights.