“Now they got something to think about,” says Zilla
|Luke Watson struggles against Fenelon for
room in the paint. Photo by Terrance Gavan.
By terrance Gavan
The IE Weldon Wildcat Hoop Cats are formidable, daunting, and deep.
They play tough man to man and can scurry to a fronting zone when necessary.
Hal High coach Roland Zilla knows what to expect when his squad settles in against that Lindsay institution.
In fact, Zilla said in a post-game scrum after a league game versus Brock last Tuesday (Dec 14), “if we can hold them (Weldon) under fifty tomorrow, we’ve got a good chance.”
And on Wednesday the 3-1 Hawks sallied forth against the 4-0 Cats knowing one thing: live by the run and die by the gun; the gun in this case: the Wildcats’ withering fast break.
The Hawks lost 41-32, but may have won a strategic battle of wills.
Hal High silenced an explosive team that – until last week’s trip to the Hawk’s Nest – had been bopping Kawartha opposition on their collective noggins. The Wildcats ran right over Brock Bulldogs by 50 plus in an earlier league game.
The Hawks startled freewheeling Weldon with a fronting zone, challenging the outside shooters, and stifling the Cats’ inside game. Both teams were scoreless for the first three minutes of play, a testament to that hungry zone.
More important, the Hawks ran a patient half court offence looking to capitalize with off-ball screens against a combative and stingy man-to-man defense.;
Thankfully, in a high school league that eschews the shot clock, Zilla’s Red Hawks channeled former UNC coach Dean Smith, playing an up-tempo version of the ol’ Tar Heel shuffle, a strategic slowdown guaranteed to frustrate quick stepping teams.
And it worked. Weldon’s composure wilted and the Hawks got exactly what they wanted: a slow percolating Tennessee quicksand contest. Weldon consolidated a 10-4 first quarter lead and led 18-6 at the half.
Zilla said post-game that the 18 was right but the Hawks low output, attributed to a few missed lay-ups and cold shooting, was not part of the blueprint.
The second half played differently however, and the Hawks – led by Luke Watson’s 10 points, Chris Allison’s 8 and Jesse Lefebvre’s 6 points and awesome work on the boards – went out and played the Cats straight up, winning the second half 26-23.
Zilla says the strong play, muscle memory, and ingrained acceptance of that strong second half effort will carry the Hawks in the latter part of the season.
“Our zone really challenged their shots,” said Zilla. “We were sending two guys back early on every transition.”
The slowdown, the patience and the positive reinforcement of that second half rebound left Zilla pretty happy in spite of the scoreboard numbers.
“We play Weldon in the last game of the season, and how much stronger are we going to be by then?” said Zilla. “We missed some threes and some layups in that first half and if we add up those missed chances… who knows?”
One thing we do know is the Hawks took that positive energy on the road last Friday (Dec 17) and beat Gravenhurst 57-30.
It was a timely exhibition and just the tonic for that Weldon loss.
“We played just as well against Gravenhurst as we had against Weldon,” said Zilla by phone on Monday night. “We got great games from both Jesse (Lefebvre) and Damon (Flatman), they both scored 14. Chris Allison had 12 points and Luke (Watson) had 8.
“We pretty much played everybody.We got to use the whole bench.”
The Hawks play their annual Alumni Game today (Thursday) at 4 pm in the Nest.
Hawks are tied with Lindsay Collegiate at 3-2 for second place in Kawartha West.
The Hawks play LCVI early in the New Year.
Reach gav at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @terrancegavan.