Boys’ basketball rebounds from close preseason losses

By Robbie Loeb

Over the past four years, early struggles have been characteristic of the boys’ basketball program. Standing at 2-2 as of press time, Wolverine squads are just 9-8 in their first week of games for the last four years.

“The biggest challenge is learning how to play with each other,” Head Coach Greg Hilliard said. “It’s like learning a new dance and stepping on each other’s foot right now.”

Although the team has dropped its first two games, Hilliard is not worried. Three of the first four games have been decided by four points or less.

“Because we get less time with our guys than most of the teams we play, we always start out a little bit behind,” Hilliard said. “Our goal is long-term and not short-term, but we definitely have to get better in increments.”

The Wolverines lost 61-57 to Santa Monica on Nov. 28 in their season opener, failing to convert on three critical free throw attempts with four seconds left. The following day, the team once again found itself on the wrong side of a tight game with a 56-54 loss to Pacific Hills. The team earned its first victory in an 87-59 win over Hawthorne on Dec. 1 and defeated Dominguez 84-83 in their final game of the Pacific Shores Tournament on Dec. 3.

“There’s so much chance involved,” Hilliard said. “In all three [close games], we had good shots to take the lead. Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t.”

Despite the absence of their two tallest players in Zena Edosomwan ’12 and David Winfield ’13 for the Dominguez game due to the SAT, the Wolverines still pulled off a win. Derick Newton ’14, who sat out his freshman season with a shoulder injury, put up 30 points and Josh Hearlihy ’12 added 24 en route to a win. In the back-and-forth game, the Wolverines blew a 14-point halftime lead and went down by seven in the fourth, but Jay Kleinbart’s ’12 “senior performance,” as Hilliard put it, propelled the team to its second consecutive victory.

“When you lose a key player like Zena, it causes a positive reaction in the players,” Hilliard said. “They were very focused on covering up for missing his rebounds, easy buckets and dunks, so they were keyed up to do well.”

The Wolverines’ advantage over other teams is their rebounding ability, which allows them to get a lot of second and third chances on offense, Hilliard said. The team averages nearly 16 offensive rebounds per game.

The team plays South Torrance today. Yesterday’s results against Mira Costa were unavailable as of press time.