Last Updated: Mar 31st, 2014 - 14:20:42

Knights Unable To Climb Out Of Early Hole
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Dec 16, 2013, 21:36

Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
CHESTERFIELD Thomas Dale entered the court at L.C. Bird riding high with momentum after securing a 19-point road victory over Hopewell just three days prior. The Knights seemed to have figured out their early-season woes in a dominating 32-minute effort in which the team played collectively for the first time.

Yet, all it took was 4:18 of game-action for the good feelings to evaporate.

The Skyhawks seized control from the opening tip, scoring on their first possession of the game on a dribble-drive move from junior Kenny Williams. It was just the start of a controlling 20-to-6 run which set the stage for a disappointing 89-71 loss for the Knights.

"I think they jumped on us really quickly in the first quarter and we never really responded," Knights' head coach Eddie Goss said after the game. "Then, we began to respond and we played them evenly the rest of the game, but we just weren't ready. That's our forte. We come out not ready to play and then finally decide to play and it makes a difference."

Unfortunately for Thomas Dale, the Skyhawks (5-1) are not a team one can gift-wrap points to and expect to contend. L.C. Bird took full advantage of a Knights' (4-3) squad which was flat for the opening eight minutes of action while committing eight turnovers in the period.

The Skyhawks' full-court 2-1-2 press caused the Knights to commit mental errors in the backcourt, leading to easy opportunities for Bird.

And the points kept coming at a high-rate for the Skyhawks as they scored 48 first-half points utilizing the 3-point shot, dribble-drives, post-ups and mid-range jump-shots to get any offensive look they wanted. The inability to keep the Bird ball-handlers in front of them led to numerous Thomas Dale defensive breakdowns and a bombardment of the paint.

"We just kind of stood and watched," Goss said of his defense. "People drive by us like crazy. It's like a drive-in movie or something. They just drive on by us and we can't drive past anyone which is the craziest thing."

However, even with Bird's athleticism taking center stage, for the final 2:14 of the first half, the Knights seemed poised to make a run.

Staring at a 27-point deficit, Thomas Dale's Andrien White knew he needed to provide a spark to attempt a comeback. The junior guard began to penetrate at will, utilizing some acrobatic moves to complete a lay-in while also finding Collin Fleischer in the paint.

The 13-5 run cut into the Skyhawks' lead as the Knights trailed by just 14 points entering the intermission.

Yet, like clockwork, Bird answered the late-rally with one of their own in the third quarter, going on a 18-6 tear before White tallied 8 points in a 55-second span to once again cut the deficit. However, the Knights never could fully climb themselves out of the early hole.

"It's always tough and they're a good team," Goss said of the attempted comeback. "That's what happens with a good team, they answer runs and Troy (Manns) does a good job with them."

However, while White did propel Thomas Dale on a multiple runs, Goss said the game is still a learning experience for the talented junior who dumped in a team-high 17 points in the effort. On multiple occasions, the frustration was evident on his face as he attempted to do too much on his own instead of getting others involved.
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot

"I think he tried to do too much at times. He doesn't understand being patient," Goss said. "It will come to him and all, but he gets frustrated and thinks he has to do it all and you can't do it all. You got to have teammates help and that's what we have to do."

And while White led the team in points again, he did receive plenty of scoring help on the night. Christian Clarke, Niles Tate and Fleischer each had success down low. They all established key low-post position and were able to effectively body up Bird's forwards for points of their own.

Fleischer finished second on the team with 15 points while also grabbing a few key offensive rebounds. The combination of Clarke and Tate added up to 18 points, nine each, as Thomas Dale executed the game-plan set in place prior to the game.

"We thought we could get the ball inside to them," Goss said. "We did and it makes the difference if we do, but we had to have some more outside help, too."

Outside shooting did not come for a Thomas Dale squad which buried just 23 field goals, three of which from 3-point range, while Bird buried 30 field goals, including six trifectas.

But at the end of the game, Goss looked to the scoreboard and realized without the tough start, his team would have been in the game in the waning moments of the fourth quarter. Bird had entered the game as the No. 4 team in the 5A power rankings, showing the ability they possess.

"We showed some character and got back in it," Goss said. "We were down big, cut it to 14 at one time, and had a couple of chances. When you make those plays big things happen."

While a 18-point loss is not what Goss had in mind, the game gave him a teachable lesson for practice this week. Playing a full 32 minutes is the key to success. Talent can only take a team so far and Skyhawks taught the Knights the critical early-season lesson.

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