Manchester West hoopsters struggle to get over early-season hurdles
West sophomore Zack Jones elevates at the basket to finish off a breakaway layup during the Blue Knights’ 15-point loss to Winnacunnet on Jan. 4. (Dan Moberger Photo)
“We’re just young, but that’s just an excuse we’re using too many times now,” junior forward Nolan Flynn said. “We’ll get better, but it needs to happen fast.”
The Blue Knights have three seniors – guard Jacques Carl and forwards Mike Gamache and Josh Wilson – along with several juniors, but they get significant floor time from their three sophomores.
On Friday, Jan. 4, they dropped another game, due in large part to mistakes from their inexperience. West headed to Winnacunnet High School, and despite coming back to pull within nine late in the fourth quarter, the Blue Knights fell, 70-55.
“This is definitely a game I would’ve liked to have gotten,” head coach Danny Bryson said. “But we’re young, inexperienced, we’re still learning. It’s a big learning curve right now, but it’s stuff we can get cleaned up, stuff we can hopefully fix by the end of the season.”
Winnacunnet got out to an early lead, extending it to more than 20 points at times throughout the game. As the Blue Knights cut into the lead, youthful mistakes cut short several of their runs.
West’s final, late-game run fell to a similar fate as others had in the rest of the contest. The Blue Knights got within single digits, and could have been closer if it weren’t for poor first half shooting.
“The first half, if we didn’t miss eight free throws, we would’ve been down by two points,” Bryson said “We fought so hard to get it down, we just couldn’t get over that hump. We’d get some open looks or a turnover or what have you, and then they’d get it back up to 15.”
A major concern for Bryson and the Blue Knights was their rebounding. They gave up several extra possessions, especially in the first half, resulting in second chance points for the Warriors.
“It’s not so much what other teams do, it’s what we’re not doing right now,” said Bryson. “We’re not doing the fundamental things – taking care of the ball, running our plays, executing our plays, hitting free throws – all the little things you’ve got to do to win ball games, we’re just not doing right now.”
Four regular season games into the season and West was winless, but they finally broke through with a 72-45 win over Timberlane on Jan. 8. Next on the schedule is Manchester Central on Jan. 15, with Trinity and Salem to follow.
Flynn and Bryson both said the team needs to play with more intensity and intelligence. At the top of Bryson’s list to focus on in practice are boxing out as a team and getting their offense to utilize both sides of the floor.
“You just need guys that can bust their toot at all times and if we can do that we can run with the best of them, honestly,” Flynn said. “Everyone shoots at the same hoop, they put on the same shorts. We’re small, but we can run with guys. It doesn’t really matter how big you are, it’s your heart.”