Patriots fall at Briarwood

Patriots senior Will McCommons fights around a Briarwood defender to attempt a shot close to the goal.

PHOTO: Justin Hubbard

By Justin Hubbard

justin@lakeoconeenews.us

 

The Nathanael Greene Academy boys basketball team dropped its 12th game of the season last Friday at Briarwood Academy, losing 77-39.

Briarwood did not jump on the Patriots out of the gate. The Runnin’ Bucs led NGA just 18-16 through the first quarter. They used a handful of crucial 3-pointers and turnovers, though, to build a 48-27 halftime lead.

Despite a commendable effort in the second half, the Patriots failed to match Briarwood’s scorers. NGA head coach Derrick Williams said the game went about as expected given Briarwood’s talent.

“I honestly don't even feel bad about it,” Williams said. “[Briarwood’s] a good team. They only have one loss and that's to Gatewood in overtime. I knew they were gonna be a challenge. They're big, they're physical. Of course, I would've wanted the score to be closer but I don't feel bad about it one bit.”

The Runnin’ Bucs’ ability to shoot the 3-pointer is ultimately what swung the game in their favor. Williams said he knew why his team struggled with defending shots on the perimeter.

“We've got to do a better job of closing out,” Williams said. “We close out a lot with our hands down. We've got to close out better with our hands up and, not even with those threes, we've got to do a better job with defensive rebounding. They killed us on the offensive glass [Friday].”

Junior Will McCommons had his jump shot working early, which helped the Patriots keep things close. Williams said McCommons’ progression this year as the team’s focal point has been fun to watch.

“He's our rock,” Williams said. “We'll go as far as he takes us. We've been working on him stepping out and shooting the jump shot because a lot of teams expect him to just play inside so we've been working on that a lot.”

McCommons made a basket or two in the second half but, by and large, NGA’s offense sputtered during the third and fourth quarters.

Williams said there are a few key areas in which the team must improve.

“We've got to do better moving the ball,” he said. “We have a lot of turnovers where we're trying to force things inside when it's not open. Then, when it's open, we don't throw it. We've just got to have confidence shooting the jump shot. We've had a lot of jump shots that we don't shoot and I just think the guys need to have a little success shooting and we'll be fine once that happens.”

Despite their offensive woes, the Patriots kept attacking.

They struggled during the second half but it was not because of a lack of effort. NGA maintained nearly the same level of aggression it showed during the first half.

Williams said he was proud to see his players keep fighting in spite of the large deficit.

“I think it just shows a testament that we don't quit,” Williams said. “The boys have gone through a lot this year, only having one win and 12 losses. At any moment, they could just be like, 'You know what? We don't care anymore.' But people can see, no matter what, they're gonna keep playing till the end of the game.”

The Patriots might as well change their name to the Road Warriors for the next couple of weeks. After playing at Briarwood, they traveled to Westminster Christian Academy last Saturday and they went to David Emanuel Academy this past Tuesday.

NGA hosted Windsor Academy on Jan. 4. The Patriots won’t play in Siloam again until their showdown with Curtis Baptist on Jan. 20.

When asked what his players need to do moving forward and try and improve their play, Williams listed a few things.

“Just play consistent,” he said. “Start the game off strong and finish it off strong and just keep trusting each other and trust what we're building.”

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