Blue Devils Hold Off Hawks
At the root of good team ball is the basic of playing smart. Doing your job when it’s needed, but always being ready to fall back and help in every other facet. That’s what the Blue Devils are learning day by day.
Tyler Aquilina had 24 points and as Kenmore West held off Cardinal O’Hara to score a 62-57 win in the opening round of the Ken-Ton Holiday Classic that was played at Kenmore East on Tuesday evening.
The win vaults the Blue Devils into Wednesday’s title game where they will play St.Joe’s at 6:30.
The Marauders earned their way to the title game by defeating Kenmore East, 62-33. A back-and-forth game in the early stages, it didn’t take long for the senior heavy Blue Devils (3-4) to to impose their will on a very young Hawks team that started four sophomore. Using a series of well timed passes, perfect shot selection and solid team ball Ken-West took a commanding 21-7 lead after the first quarter and appeared on its way to an easy win.
But that would not be the case as the Hawks (2-4) clawed their way back into the game bit by bit as they outscored Ken-West, 22-10, in the second quarter trimming the score to a two point deficit, 31-29.
Blue Devils coach Mike Meetze tried to spark his team by posing the question of how to you want to be remembered for this night?
Meetze firmly believes that his players have the talent to compete with anyone, but the x-factor they must all realize is that it’s about playing as one and realizing you can’t pigeon hole yourself into one role. Be ready to do the dirty work of battling for loose ball and rebounds on a regular basis.
Citing how senior Tyler White was battling O’Hara’s 6-foot-5Justin Hemphill one-on-one most of the night as an example of helping a teammate if you have a free hand. Just as vital as taking care of the ball, Meetze feels his team needs to learn how to take care of the clock. Gifted with a great deal of team speed and quality basketball talent, the Blue Devils are still in the process of learning how to slow the tempo of the game when the time is right. To not always be in a hurry to rush up court to sink the next bucket and realize there are times when a slower, more deliberate pace is the smarter way to go.
“Our problem is we have good scorers, individually. We’re not used to having kids who are very talented basketball players and they want to do their own things some times, which is a double edge sword because when you need a shot it’s great. They can create,” Meetze said, “but when you’re up with a lead you’ve got to run time and they don’t understand the nuances yet. It’s hard when you play fast to get them to play slower, but we’re not saying play slower. Just smarter.”
Aquilina was firing out of the gate in the second half as he sank eight points in the third to help Ken-West hold a 45-40 lead. A five-point run by Tal James (14 points) midway through the fourth gave Ken-West some breathing room with a 54-44 lead.
“We can be a very good team if we play like that,” Tyler Aquilina said, referring to the first quarter.
“We’re all on the same page. We were talking, moving our feet. We’ve just got to keep that same mentality throughout the whole game.”
The Hawks were led by Torree Cheatam (19 points) who seemed to always hit a key basket that allowed his team to stay in the battle.
Hawks coach Tony Pulvirenti felt his team was able to pull closer after exposing some weaknesses in the Blue Devils half court offense. Ultimately it was the Blue Devils size advantage that allowed them to win the battle of the boards and sink some clutch baskets off second and third chances.
“They scored most of their points in the third quarter on put backs,” Pulvirenti said. “That’s what killed us. We knew they were the bigger team and we didn’t box out enough-but we played til the end. We played til the end. Guys played hard. They always listen. I think the focus and the right mentality were there. If we can bring that every game we’re gonna win a lot of games.”
Overall Pulvirenti felt this was a solid learning experience for his young team that will face Ken-East in the third place game at 5pm.
Kyle Laplante had 15 points for the Blue Devils. Rene Velazques (11) and Justin Hemphill (17) were key in the Hawks comeback efforts as they both hit double figures.