by BRYAN EVERSON
Scoring nearly 100 points is always an impressive feat in high school basketball. Doing it with just one 3-pointer made? That’s even better.
Troy Athens got it done the pre-1987 way on Tuesday night, needing just one long ball to rack up plenty of points in a 94-80 win at Chippewa Valley.
“I hate to say we’ve given up 80 before, but I think 94 is probably a program-high for us,” Athens coach Dave Scott said. “Part of it was just the pace of the game. I thought we were playing pretty well offensively, we made some shots.”
“I wish that [the one 3-pointer] was by design, because normally we throw it up, but we’ve been talking about attacking the basket. And a big part of that is what they gave us. Instead of settling for 3’s, we kept attacking. I think when we do that, we can do OK. They play aggressive and try to get in passing lanes, so we were able to use their aggressiveness to our advantage.”
It was clear from the offset that the Red Hawks (3-1) were willing to engage in a pacey 32 minutes of hoops, but when they posted 30 points in the first quarter, it became clear that this type of fight might be tough to win for the Big Reds (1-2), who didn’t trouble Athens enough with their trapping, nor their interior defense.
“I was disappointed in our defense, rebounding and decision making at times, but at this point at the season they’re a better basketball team than us,” said Voss. “They hit a lot of shots that you don’t expect in a tempo game. a phenomenal job of hitting mid-range jumpers. They got a lot of layups — that’s a defensive problem with us, we’ve got to step up and take charges — but a lot from 10-to-16 feet.”
Scott called junior guard Brendt Stephens “unbelievable” in the first half,” as he was the straw that began to stir the drink, scoring 14 of his 16 points in the opening quarter.
And the shots more or less kept falling all night for the Red Hawks, who continued to take advantage of trapping that largely didn’t bother them.
“When we had opportunities to go 3-on-2 and 2-on-1 we took them, and mostly took good shots,” Scott said. “I thought when they pressured us, we did a great job breaking them down and getting good looks.”
A team effort powered the victory for Athens, led by junior Taylor McCaskill, who took the baton from Stephens and finished with a team-high 17 points.
“He’s gradually working his way back into our lineup, and he was good tonight,” Scott said of McCaskill. “He helps us and gives us a different dynamic, and it’s nice to have him back.”
The standout guard was just one of six Red Hawks that finished in double-figures, along with Josh Spryszak, Jack Wilson, Stephens, Nik Cotton, and Jacob Brantley, who also had 10 rebounds.
For such a fast-paced game, Scott was pleased with how well his team shot free throws (19-of-25) and took care of the ball (13 turnovers). Athens tried to dial down the pace with an 18-point lead heading into the final quarter, but Scott talked about the difficulty in that with how well things were going with the game being played up-and-down the floor.
We started trying to slow it down just to kind of shorten this game as much as possible, but part of it is, when they play that style, sometimes you have to keep attacking because they keep giving you opportunities and you’ve got to take them,” he said. “I thought that’s what our kids did tonight. They didn’t get scared and let the moment get to be too much for them, which is something we’ve been trying to stress.”
Junior guard D’lano Woods proved to be the main thorn in the side of the Red Hawks’ defense, leading all scorers with 26 points, only one coming from the free-throw line.
“He’s left-handed, he pretty much [solely] goes left, and you pretty much can’t stop him,” Voss said. “There’s guys like that in basketball, you know which way they’re going to go and still get there.”
The Red Hawks will play their first game at home on Dec. 23 when they host Bishop Foley, then take on Livonia Stevenson on Dec. 28 at 4 p.m. as part of the Motor City Roundball Classic at Detroit Renaissance.