Most games aren’t won or lost in the first few minutes – coachspeak says it takes a full 32 minutes to properly dispatch an opponent.
Yet, the Enterprise boys basketball team made it easier for themselves down the stretch of Friday’s 52-40 win over River City by developing a big first-half cushion. Hornets’ coach Jim Deaver was pleased with the near flawless first quarter of basketball in the second round of the Jamie Angley Hornet Classic, but knows it’ll take more than that against Saturday’s championship tilt opponent – crosstown rival Shasta.
The Enterprise offense was superb during the first eight minutes of the game while the defense also was on-point as the Hornets bounced to a 19-4 edge after one period.
Gage Owen opened the scoring with a transition bucket off a Kobe Fuller steal and Jermaine Mondaine, perhaps the surprise of the year so far in North State boys hoops, canned a triple two minutes in and Enterprise led 5-2. Add in another Owen bucket, two Brennan Ramirez freebies, a 15-footer from Demarreya Lewis-Cooper and a fast-break layup from Owen and Deaver’s squad led 13-4 five minutes into the game.
“They were playing well, really well,” Deaver said. “When they’re doing that it’s beautiful basketball.”
Meanwhile, the Hornets’ five pestered the Raiders into 2-of-12 shooting in the period as Lewis-Cooper, Owen and Mondaine all hit to give the Hornets the 15-point edge heading to the second quarter.
But something happened in the second period, as the hosts went away from what had been working – running the offense, crisp passes, sly back cuts – and started settling for quick looks. And that allowed River City to get its legs underneath and at least keep pace with the Hornets, trailing 29-14 at intermission.
And while Deaver said the only halftime speech was a reminder to play their game, the Hornets again took the odd period to build … rebuild … their lead.
“Our ball movement was great but it stopped,” Deaver said. “We talked about it at half. We go up by 20-something points and then you stop doing what you’ve been doing. I get that they’re probably tired, but why stop the ball movement?”
Ramirez’s free throws opened the half and the sophomore followed with a left-wing triple to push the edge to 38-17. And in perhaps the quintessential offensive moment of the game for the Hornets, Mondaine was on the receiving end of four quick passes that found him wide open for a 3-ball and a 41-19 lead.
But just as they had in the second period, the Hornets took their foot off the gas, forcing Deaver to call a 30-second timeout and loudly pose the question “Do you think this game is over?” question to his team in the huddle.
“Sometimes kids get too comfortable with what we’re doing and this can turn around in a second,” Deaver said. “Look, they got it to 12 points.”
The Hornets would bump the lead to 46-22 on a layup from Matthew Luera on a back cut where Lewis-Cooper hit the senior in stride for the bucket with just over a minute left in the third.
And while it never appeared as though the game was in jeopardy for the Hornets, the Raiders were able to cut the 17-point deficit to 12 in the waning moments of the game.
“If you don’t (manage the clock) it will be turned around,” Deaver said. “They (River City) got a lot of good looks and they just weren’t falling and that won’t happen with Shasta or Foothill or PV. ”
The Hornets now set their sites on Shasta, which handled U-Prep 65-59 in the other championship semifinal in what was an entertaining back-and-forth contest most of the way. Enterprise beat Shasta 59-56 on Dec. 6 in the Harlan Carter seminfinals – a game that had a big-time playoff feel despite being in the first week of the season.
Deaver expects no less on Saturday – and perhaps the two or three other times the rivals might play this season.
River City – 4-10-13-13-40
Enterprise – 19-10-17-6-52
Raiders – Wyatt 2, Terrocero 2, Pryor 5, Deams 6, Rodriguez 7, D. Villanueva 7, S. Villanueva 11
Hornets – Luera 2, Fuller 5, Lewis-Cooper 9, Owen 12, Ramirez 12, Mondaine 12
3-pointers – RC – 6: Pryor, Rodriguez, D. Villanueva, S. Villanueva (3); EHS – 6: Fuller, Lewis-Cooper, Ramirez (2), Mondaine (2)
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