It was not the best of victories, that’s for sure.
For a talented but inexperienced men’s basketball team at Timber Creek, however, not all of them will be masterpieces, and learning how to pull off a win on a tough night is an important lesson in itself.
The Chargers overcame a sluggish first half on Thursday and led their defense to a 40-31 win over visiting GCIT in Tri-County Conference Royal Division action.
Freshman Marcus Upton scored a team-high 10 points, all in the second half, as Timber Creek extended his winning streak to four and improved to 5-7 on aggregate, 2- 3 in the Royal. The Cheetahs, who were without leading scorer Griffin Reuter and point guard Josh Mathew, fell to 3-6, 0-5.
Timber Creek coach Rich Bolds, who guided the program to a section championship in 2020 and a division title last year, has seen most of those teams’ top players graduate or transfer, he so knew it would be an up and a down. year. But he still keeps his players at a high level.
“When you have a team that hasn’t played a lot of college basketball, you kind of know you’re going to ride that wave, and today was a down wave for us, so to speak,” a- he declared. “At half-time we jumped on them saying they weren’t focusing on defending and they weren’t doing what we asked them to do. They increased it a bit, but you have to remember that they were missing two of their best players in GCIT, the point guard and the big man. So it would have been a totally different game if we were playing that way and those two guys were playing. We got a little lucky and honestly I’m not too happy with our efforts overall, but a win is a win.
Wins were hard to come by early in the season when the Chargers started 1-7, but they’ve found their footing in the past two weeks. Even without playing their best on Thursday, they managed to maintain the streak.
“We’re starting to start a little, they’re starting to listen a little more, but we just need it consistently,” Bolds said. “We have to be consistent with our defensive effort and our defensive pressure. Once we start doing it regularly, everything will be fine. Against St. Augustine, we looked great (in a 56-42 loss), but tonight we looked like we had never played before. It’s a bit frustrating but it’ll be fine. »
Both teams struggled to get the ball in the basket on Thursday, and the game was scoreless for the first 5½ minutes. Timber Creek led 4-2 after the first quarter and 14-12 at the break.
But the Chargers managed to force 19 turnovers in the second half to generate some offense and leave enough breathing room between them and the Cheetahs.
“Coach caught us because of what happened in the first half,” said junior point guard Bryan Warren, who had six points, six steals and four assists. “We came out in the second half playing better defense, getting interceptions and scoring baskets.”
Upton led the way offensively, as he made all three of his attempts from the field in the third quarter, including one from behind the arc and a traditional three-point play. He also scored a key basket in the dying minutes of the game to end GCIT’s comeback hopes.
“(Warren), Coach and the rest of the team came through and boosted my confidence to help me score,” Upton said. “I needed to be more aggressive like Coach says. I like to take jump shots and when I feel confident they come in.
It was Upton’s second double-digit game of his rookie season, joining an 11-point performance against Clearview.
“He’s very aggressive and he plays smart,” Bolds said. “He’s trying to learn to play in the system and know when to go and when not to go. He certainly has a lot of potential. We just want him to keep working and hope he gets better.
Making the effort is fine with Upton, who entered the season with no expectations but was one of three freshmen to make the varsity roster.
“I thought I just had to keep working and see where it would take me,” he said. “I’ve always been pushed hard by my dad and Coach pushes me even harder.
“I like him a lot. Me and the other freshmen are close and we just have to keep working until it’s our turn.
Derek Wyllie scored a GCIT-high 12 points with seven rebounds, and Dare Urso knocked down a pair of 3s and finished with nine points. The Cheetahs were eliminated by 33 turnovers for the game, although not having Mathew – who tore his meniscus last week – certainly didn’t help.
Reuter, who is averaging 14 points per game, was out with a concussion.
“We’re injury-plagued right now,” coach McNeil Wrice said. “He’s the next man and we’re trying to put the pieces together and figure it out. … Tonight was not pretty. (Turnover) has been our problem all year.
Wrice, who is in his first year with the program, however, couldn’t be happier with the effort. The Cheetahs kept fighting until the end but just didn’t have enough offense.
“I told them at half-time: ‘The effort is there; the will is there,” he said. “Execution is something we’re still figuring out, and it’s on me as well.”
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