by BRYAN EVERSON
Chippewa Valley coach Kevin Voss has been in the basketball lab for over 30 years, but he’s still tinkering with this year’s experiment.
His team got into the thick of a run-and-gun affair Tuesday night and couldn’t keep up with Troy Athens, falling 94-80 at home.
It was clear from the offset that the Red Hawks 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.”
In fact, just one 3-pointer comprised Athens’ composite scoring, but Voss hoped for more outside offense from his own team.
“I thought the way we ran early was very good, but the problem we had later on was that we stopped penetrating and kicking to shooters,” he said. “We had four 3-pointers in the first half, only two in the second half. [Penetration] should lead to open shots, and when our guys were trying to take it to the rim, and they’re bigger than we were, we didn’t finish.
Junior guard D’lano Woods, a contributor last year, showed more than just flashes for Chippewa Valley offensively, churning out a game-high 26 points, all but one of them coming on shots from the field.
“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.”
“He’s a kid who played for us last year and did nice things, but we had Steven Lloyd who signed with Grand Valley, and we had better players, more of a senior-laden team last year. He was a sophomore who started, but now he’s playing capable of what he’s doing. We’ve just got to get some guys capable of helping him a little more, especially defensively.”
Improvement will have to come at the free-throw line, where the Big Reds shot just 11-of-19, and preventing the opponent from getting inside and getting there, too; Athens (3-1) made 19-of-24 from the charity stripe.
“If we want to make it more competitive, we need to make 15 or 16 of those,” Voss said. “The times when we missed them would have really helped. It’s at eight, you don’t cut it to six [by missing your free throws] and then they go get it to 10.”
Maurice McBride (14 points) and Jaylen Ross (13 points) figured into the action for Chippewa Valley, while Taylor McCaskill led Athens with 17 points, followed by 16 each from Jacob Brantley and Brendt Stephens.
Despite some very good teams in the MAC Red eventually coming on the schedule, Voss doesn’t expect many to duplicate the kind of shooting that Athens managed.
“Looking at most of the teams we play, honestly, I don’t think many of them in transition are going to shoot as well as [Troy Athens],” he said. “Take away the layups — because there were breakdowns there — but I don’t think many teams in the Red are going to make as many [mid-range shots] as they did. We’re hoping you’re going to take those shots, and to their credit, those guys hit shot after shot.”
He talked of teams in the past of his that have won by eclipsing the century mark offensively, and the strategy is to employ a frenetic pace once again without a physical presence in the post.
“Most of my career here, we’ve had really good teams, so a lot of times we’ve walked in figuring we might win 15, 16 or more games,” Voss said. “I’m not saying we can’t win that many this year, but we knew it was going to be hard work.”
“Their kids were coming off the bench and giving them solid minutes and not losing the lead when they were in there, so their starters are getting their rest and coming out fresh. We never got a chance to wear them down.”
“We’re trying to play at a frenzied pace; this is not for the weak of heart. You push the panic button right now and slow it all down, or you work on defense to kick the pace up faster.”
The Big Reds will host some holiday action next week when they welcome in Clintondale on Dec. 27, and then face an opponent from the matchup between St. Clair-Roseville.
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