By Josh Brown
TROY — Troy Christian boys basketball coach Ray Zawadzki didn’t hold back when describing his team’s effort on the offensive end early in Friday night’s home opener against Metro Buckeye Conference foe Jefferson.
“It was an interesting game,” he said. “Obviously, our defensive effort was solid in both halves. It was just that our offensive execution was at an all-time low (in the first half).”
Luckily, his Eagles responded in the second half.
After holding Jefferson to only one first-half field goal but being held to only 17 first-half points itself, Troy Christian (3-0, 1-0 MBC) executed the inside-out game to perfection in the second half, getting another double-double from senior post James Anderson and hitting six of its seven 3-pointers as a team after the break en route to a 56-19 victory over the Broncos Friday at the Eagles’ Nest.
“I challenged the kids at halftime, and I think you saw a difference Troy Christian team in the second half,” Zawadzki said. “That’s the level we have to play at. We can’t settle for holding people to low numbers (on defense). We’re going to have to score the basketball.”
Still, Zawadzki didn’t like the sloppiness with the basketball that plagued the Eagles throughout the game. Troy Christian turned the ball over nine times in the first half — but still held a 9-2 lead after one and a 17-4 lead at halftime — and only won the turnover battle by one by night’s end, 19-18.
“It’s been an issue that we’re going to have to work on, our assists-to-turnovers ratio is reverse from what we want it to be,” Zawadzki said. “A lot of our guards haven’t played a lot of varsity minutes. Most of my experience is in the front court. But there’s some things we can help the kids with. Just don’t be afraid, just play the game, relax, do the things we’ve been teaching you and don’t get stressed out.”
One thing that hasn’t abandoned the Eagles all season so far, though, is their toughness inside. Anderson posted his third double-double in as many games, leading all scorers with 22 points and adding 14 rebounds and four blocked shots, while Jackson Kremer had five of his nine rebounds in the first half and added three points and three blocked shots to help ease the burden on Anderson.
“That’s definitely one of our strengths,” Zawadzki said. “The addition of Jackson Kremer to James (Anderson) helps immensely. For two years, I’ve been yelling at James to get every rebound — well, that’s just impossible. Jackson is really filling that role nicely. He’s a nice complement to James, he has a lot of athletic ability and uses some of his soccer instincts to track the ball. There was one play on a missed free throw where he tips it out and we get an extra possession — just doing little things that don’t show up in the boxscore.”
After struggling offensively in the first half, though, the Eagles put the game away early in the second.
Troy Christian opened the third quarter on a 15-2 run to open up an insurmountable lead. Anderson scored a quick bucket inside and then converted a three-point play before Jefferson hit its first field goal since early in the first quarter to make the score 22-6. But Izaak Frantom and Connor Case hit back-to-back 3s, Chace Varvel hit Kremer with a lob for a layup and Anderson drove in for another layup, and the Eagles were up 32-6 in what seemed like the blink of an eye.
Varvel hit two of his three 3s on the night before quarter’s end, and even though the Broncos were finally able to get their offense going, the Eagles still led 40-14 heading into the fourth quarter — and Troy Christian cruised from there.
Varvel finished with a career-high total of 11 points, and Trent Huelskamp hit a pair of 3s and added six points. Case finished with five points, Frantom had three and Cameron Strine, Brady Clawson and Nathan Scott each had two points.
“Everyone has a role,” Zawadzki said. “Chace, getting a career high tonight, he has to be able to knock down shots for us. He’s got to shoot it with confidence. With James and Jackson inside, we’re going to get outside looks. They just need to be confident in themselves. We trust them, believe in them, believe in the role they’re here to fill — and that’s what’s going to make us a good basketball team, if everyone does what they’re supposed to be doing.”
Troy Christian travels to Emmanuel Christian Tuesday for another MBC matchup, the beginning of a six-game road trip to close out the calendar year. The Eagles won’t return home until Jan. 5, 2018, when they host MBC rival Yellow Springs.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.