Shaky defensive performance’ results in 21 point elimination from NJCAA Tournament
By: CHRISTIAN HARGAS
The Archers were defeated, 94-73, by the MCC-Penn Valley Scouts in the Region XVI Championship game on Saturday, Feb. 27, at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, MO. There were problems on both sides of the ball during the game, Head Coach Terry Collins said.
“We did not play well offensively, there was way too much one-on-one,” Collins said. “Defensively, we did not do a good job of guarding the post and we did not do a good job of rebounding. It was really a bad effort.”
The problems were existent from the start, Sophomore Forward Charles Johnson said.
“I just do not think we started off on the right foot,” Johnson said. “The positive energy was not there, there was a lot of negative energy before the game. We did not play good enough defense.”
The Archers’ defensive performance in this game was shaky, Sophomore Guard Marcel Lee said.
“We did not play our regular defense, did not have the same intensity or tenacity,” Lee said. “We got the scouting report and we knew what was in store for us. We just gambled on a couple of key baskets that we could have stopped.”
The Scouts won the opening tip-off and took an early 6-2 lead in the first half. The Archers tied the game at six before MCC-Penn Valley took the lead for the second time in the opening half. The Archers’ could not get into their usual rhythm, Collins said.
“We just never took control of the tempo of the game and that is their style,” Collins said. “So, that was a big problem.”
Failing to invest into the game plan was another contributing factor to the team’s loss, Freshman Guard Jason Johnson said.
“We all had to come together and buy into what he [Collins] wanted us to do, buy into the system and the majority of the time we did not buy into the system,” Johnson said. “So, the outcome was the outcome. It just did not happen for us.”
MCC-Penn Valley led by six points at halftime before opening the second half by extending their lead to 13. The Archers were outscored 53-38 and totaled nine fouls in the second half. The offensive and defensive problems continued to be exploited, Collins said.
“[On defense] we were out of position,” Collins said. “When you are out of position on defense, you tend to reach and foul. That was really just about being out of position. [Offensively] it was just the habits of playing our style that works for us and we did not. We gave into Penn-Valley’s style and the dam broke.”
Every loss is a lesson in life, Freshman Forward Alex Ocokoljic said.
“You just accept whatever happens,” Ocokoljic said. “I am really proud of how far we came, but it is really just regret now because we lost. It is easier to lose at the beginning than lose in the championship finals. The worst thing is to be second in anything in life, but it is what it is.”
Despite losing in the championship game, there are still some things to be optimistic about heading into next season, Lee said. There are things to look back and reflect upon.
“At the beginning of the season, we had a rocky start,” Lee said. “We had a new coach and new system. It is hard playing triangle offense in one season, but I still think we had a good overall year though. We went through a lot; losing players, had an eight game losing streak and people not thinking much of us. People said we were not even suppose-to make it this far with only eight players, we were up against all odds.”
It was still a disappointing way to finish the season, Collins said.
“The goal is to win a championship and we did not,” Collins said. “I am glad that we did not give into the slow start, that is a good sign, a good quality. It is just a disappointing finish because when we were playing well, we were playing a certain style of ball and we got away from it. Once we got away from that style, we never really got back to it.”
The intensity of the game is high in moments like this and teams play different, Lee said.
“When you are here, teams have a 0-0 record,” Lee said. “You cannot base a team off ‘you best them last time so you are going to beat them again.’ You just have to think like it is the first time playing this new team. Everybody that is playing wants to win. They want to take it [championship] home just as badly as you want to.”