By Owen Gotimer
Viva Loudoun College Intern
Leesburg (Dec. 21, 2013) – In his inaugural season as Tuscarora High School’s head boys basketball coach Al Smith is adjusting to the change with avid execution as he has led the Huskies to a 6-2 start in 2013. On Friday night, Smith’s team fell to visiting Massaponax High School, but the coach says his team gained valuable information from the loss.
“[Rebounding’s] been one thing we need to improve on all season long. It’s a consistent theme but we know what we need to work on,” Smith said. “You play good defense, then they get up a quick shot or maybe not a very high percentage shot and then we don’t get the defensive rebound. We have to play defense all over again.”
The Massaponax Panthers won the rebounding battle 46-33 including 15 offensive rebounds. While Tuscarora secured 11 offensive boards, the rebounds on the defensive end of the floor really hurt the Huskies.
“We’ve got to win rebounds. If we win rebounds we win games,” said Massaponax head coach Darren Hickman. “If you’re going to be bigger than teams, if you’re going to play a little bit slower than them, you got to limit them to one shot. We knew going in they could shoot, we just got to make sure they only get one attempt at it and not two. So that was our focus: close out, box out. We did a pretty good job today.”
Panther sophomore Nick McCormack and senior Logan Seacrist both put up near double-double performances leading Massaponax in the paint with 9 and 10 rebounds respectively.
“We know our advantage is inside most of the time,” said Hickman who has the Panthers sitting at 6-2 on the season. “McCormick’s a sophomore and he stepped up. He’s playing like a big dude. For Seacrist, he’s playing about the best he’s played right now. He’s really stepping up and taking on a leadership role and doing what he needs to do.”
Tuscarora suffered late, as their offensive scoring leader Jordan Roach fouled out with 3:35 left in the game. Before picking up his fifth foul, Roach scored 19 points for the Huskies.
“He was having a very good offensive night tonight and not having him down the stretch when we needed some offensive help really hurt,” Smith said.
Even without one of their top players, Tuscarora was able to continue putting in a strong, endured effort late into the game. Smith utilizes a five-man line change approach to keep his team physically energized throughout the game. Every minute or so Smith will send five new guys to the scorer’s table to check in, giving the other five a rest.
“The mindset behind that is we want to put fresh legs in there,” Smith said. “We want to go about one minute as hard as you can possibly go. Get you out, get a new five in there, get fresh legs.”
Smith adds that most coaches who manage a traditional basketball game will only use seven to eight players, while his “hockey on hardwood” style allows him to use more than ten.
“We want to keep the pace very high. If the pace is kept high – that means not fouling so much, no stoppage of play, just running, running, running, running – eventually the other team is going to melt down,” Smith said. “Typically you’re going to see it in the second quarter and towards the end of the game. That’s the whole premise, the pace is the key. We’re not at the pace we want to be at yet, but we’re getting there.”
And the result is a lot of points with the Huskies averaging 81.4 points per contest, including 10 3-pointers made a contest.
While members of the team continue to learn Smith’s new system, Smith says his shift into the Tuscarora basketball program was easier than another change he endured during his move from coaching at James Wood High School to coaching in Leesburg.
“I was more nervous about the teaching part than the coaching part just because it was new procedures, and things done a different way than I was used to doing,” said Smith who teaches business at Tuscarora. “Now I’m a lot more comfortable with that and that helps me relax more coaching.”
Smith knew he wanted to land the new gig after playing against the Huskies the last two seasons while coaching at James Wood, noting the combination of Tuscarora’s overall athleticism and state-of-the-art facilities.
Tuscarora travels to Maryland next Friday to play in the Boonsboro Warrior Holiday Tournament. Tipoff is set for 5 p.m. on Friday and 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Owen Gotimer is a graduate of Heritage High School in Leesburg and is currently a sophomore at Syracuse University. Follow Owen on Twitter (@BigO_Gotimer) for up-to-date college signings, scores and more.
Tova Yarbrough 6 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steal, 3 assists
Jordan Roach 19 points, 1 rebound, 2 steals, 4/7 free throws
Neeraj Dalvi 5 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal
Daniel Smith 8 points, 9 rebounds, 5 steals, 1 assist
Jake Cochran 3 rebounds, 1 assist
Dalaynte Blaylock 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 3 assists
Kyle Gardner 2 points, 1 rebound
Josh Middleton 6 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 assists
Kyle Copeland 9 points, 1 rebound, 4 steals, 1 blocked shot, 1 assist
Nathaneel Kwofie 1 assist
Taija Blaylock 12 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocked shots
Zach Alcorn 11 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal, 1/1 free throw, 1 assist
78 points, 33 rebounds, 15 turnovers, 18 steals, 4 blocked shot, 5/8 free throws, 13 assists
Aaron McFarland 20 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, 2/2 free throws, 1 assist
Morgan Uhlick 7 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal, 1/2 free throws
Aubrey Wilson 2 points, 1 rebound
E.J. Peak 4 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 3 assists
Tony Barnett 9 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 1/3 free throws, 2 assists
Mike Gallagher 6 points, 10 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 assist
Kevin Gray 8 points, 2 rebounds, 2/2 free throws
Logan Seacrist 8 points, 10 rebounds, 1 steal, 3 blocked shots, 0/2 free throws, 1 assist
Alex Scott 6 points, 2 rebounds, 2/2 free throws
Sean Johnson 2 points, 2/2 free throws, 1 assist
Nick McCormick 12 points, 9 rebounds, 1 steal, 2/4 free throws
84 points, 46 rebounds, 22 turnovers, 10 steals, 3 blocked shots, 12/19 free throws, 8 assists