LIMA — In Lima Senior’s season opening win against Anthony Wayne, fans got a glimpse of the good, the bad and the ugly of Spartan basketball and head coach Quincey Simpson looks to improve on the good, eliminate the bad and dispense the ugly as the season progresses.
In the overtime victory Friday, the Spartans began shaky in the first quarter, hit their stride in the second and third quarters to open up a double-digit lead at the end of the third only to see it evaporate and see the Generals force an extra stanza. Despite the late game collapse, the Spartans regained their form in overtime to escape with the win.
Because the Spartans don’t have an exceptional scorer this year, team ball and players buying into their roles is what will be needed for Lima Senior to succeed.
“What we don’t have is a consistent 25-point guy,” Simpson said. “Last year we had with Jarius Ward and a couple of years before that we had it with “X” (Xavier, now Zavier, Simpson). That can be a gift or a curse. We believe we have three to five guys that can get us 12 to 17 points on any given night depending on the course of the game.”
Simpson cautions that it is still early and he is still trying to find the right combination of rotations that will be best for the team and suits the situation.
One advantage the Spartans has is depth. The Spartans boast a lineup with quickness and size where any number of players could be starters, and throughout the first 10 games, Simpson will be experimenting with different lineups.
“We are still finding guys that want to play hard all the time,” Simpson said. “We watched film against Anthony Wayne and personally we didn’t play hard so when we play teams more athletic we could struggle if we use that approach.”
Simpson added that it will take the coaching staff to connect all the dots and make early evaluations in determining the tough decision of who will be getting playing minutes.
In the win against the Generals, Simpson said that once they got up by 11 points in the third quarter they should have put the pedal to the floor and made the game a blowout. Instead, costly turnovers and lapses in defense allowed Anthony Wayne to come back.
“We should be a little more hungrier and we weren’t,” Simpson said. “In the last couple of the minutes of regulation and overtime our guys played tight. But you are not going to do everything in one game. It is going to take five or six guys to get going and to find that rotation and to find guys that are going to give you certain things. Any time when you can get wins at this juncture of the season is pretty good.”
Spartan senior B.J. Miller, who scored 19 in the season opener, headlines the returning letter winners that includes seniors Cory Clair and Jaleel Long, junior Jaleel King and sophomore Amihr Curtis.
Simpson called Miller the team’s best player who has invested the most time in the gym and shows up early in the morning and stays late in the evening to work on his game.
“He is our best player and there is no mystery about it,” Simpson said. “With that being said he has to be our best player. We need him to be a playmaker for us and for other people. If he does that it makes it easier for other guys. We are going to go as he goes and Jaleel King.”
King showed off his prowess on the boards by grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds.
Pushing these letter winners for minutes will be seniors Jatsiel Colon and Greg Johnson and sophomore Jermaine Daniels.
Colon, who picked up two quick early fouls, came on strong in the second and third quarters and finished with four points and six rebounds.
Adjusting to varsity life are freshmen Jourdyn Rawlins and Naz Cameron. Rawlins, who started at point guard, had moments of brilliance followed by moments of blunders in the win. He finished with seven points.
“Jourdyn is pretty good and works hard and does things coaches can’t teach. He has instincts and has IQ,” Simpson said. “He is not flashy and he reminds me a lot of my son. He had some costly turnovers but you are going to take those turnovers because he had the last two defensive stops and made a key bucket for us at the end.”
Miller was slated to be the starting point guard but due to some changes in the team’s dynamic, Rawlins was pressed into the position and Simpson said he has embraced the challenge and is allowing himself to be coached the right way.
“Naz is high motor and pretty athletic for his size,” said Simpson, who watched the 6-5 Cameron come off the bench to score nine points and grab seven rebounds.
With the depth, the Spartans can go big or go small.
Simpson points out that they have four players between 5-9 and 5-11 and another four that are between 6-2 and 6-4 and then the two post guys are 6-6 and 6-8.
Another bright spot that came out of the Anthony Wayne game was the Spartans’ strong rebounding. Grabbing caroms is an essential part of the Spartan offense.
“We talk about that,” Simpson said. “We talk about 50-50 balls. We talk about giving teams one chance to shoot and securing that rebound. Now we want to speed the game up and securing the rebound and getting that ball out.”
With a wealth of talent, Simpson and his staff are doing a lot of evaluating during the next month before play really begins to heat up, and the Spartan head coach said that whomever he picks to be out there that he is confident they are going to do what they are supposed to do on the floor.
“As long as these kids can buy into understanding that they have to make their minutes productive when they are out there,” Simpson said. “We are not going to put guys in just to put them in. We are going to substitute guys in and out depending on their effort and what they are bringing to the table.”