Boys Basketball: Neuqua figures out Rich Central press, then coasts
It took the inexperienced Neuqua Valley boys’ basketball team the better part of the first half to adapt to the quick, athletic Rich Central 1-3-1 halfcourt trapping defense.
Once that got figured out, it was like nothing was ever wrong as the Wildcats picked up a 71-56 victory over the Olympians Tuesday night in Riverside-Brookfield’s holiday tournament.
“We can’t replicate that in practice,” Neuqua coach Todd Sutton said. “We really struggled, a lot of bad passes. We had 10 points in the first quarter and couldn’t make any shots. It was bothersome.”
Wildcats’ senior guard Tyler Sutton came out firing uncomfortably, missing three of his first four threes and scoring just 10 points at the break with Neuqua (2-0) holding a slim 28-23 edge.
“We came out flat and didn’t get the ball inside,” Tyler Sutton said. “All night they were guarding four guys on the perimeter and leaving a big guy open. Second half, we found Nate (Boudreau) and Pat (Kenny) and that was real helpful.”
Once calm and understanding where everyone needed to be to break the trap, Sutton was able to collect himself and knock down open shots, missing just one shot attempt in the second half and hitting five threes to finish with 31 points.
“My shot was really slow in the first half and I couldn’t find a good rhythm,” Sutton said. “I had to take a deep breath, relax and keep shooting.”
The Olympians (0-2) got 14 points from Munang Eoki and 11 points and 10 rebounds from Jamal Murray, while forcing eight first quarter turnovers, but Rich Central also turned the ball over an equal amount and couldn’t pull away.
“First half, we had 12 turnovers to four assists,” Olympians coach Bobbie Smith said. “That’s an indication of how well you’re not taking care of the basketball. When you don’t have possession you can’t get shots. A couple times we had steals and gave it right back.”
The Wildcats were balanced beyond Sutton, getting eight points each from Peter Catchings and Kenny, and seven from Darien Miskel. Sophomore Elijah Robertson and seniors Jesse White and Boudreau (five points each) all had their second half moments to keep Neuqua on track towards its goals.
“Coach says we don’t have great players, we have role players,” Tyler Sutton said. “As long as we do our roles, we’ll win. That’s why Neuqua always had 22-23 wins a year because players know their roles.”