Practice on Wednesday didn’t include any practice at all for the Warren boys basketball team. At least not on the court.
Instead, the Blue Devils spent some of their time watching film, and a lot of their time talking. The players were asked by the coaches to hold a “players only” meeting and talk out their issues.
After all, a few issues surfaced during Warren’s 63-31 breakdown at the hands of Stevenson on Tuesday. The Blue Devils, in suffering one of their worst losses in more than a decade, were shut out in the first quarter (16-0) and never appeared to be on the same page. They finished the game hitting just 25 percent of their shots.
“We had bad practices leading up to that game, we had guys coming in late. I always say that if you fail to prepare, you’re preparing to fail,” Warren coach Ryan Webber said. “I told the guys that instead of us practicing, they needed to go sit down with each other and figure out what they wanted out of this season. They spent over an hour speaking with each other.
“When you play the way we played against Stevenson, when you get embarrassed, you find out some things about yourselves and you have to do some soul-searching.”
Warren dropped to 11-9 overall and 3-5 in the North Suburban Conference Lake Division with the loss to Stevenson. The weary Blue Devils get no reprieve with games against some of the top teams in the area on tap. They play Mundelein, Lake Forest, Zion-Benton, Glenbrook North and Downers Grove South in the next couple of weeks.
“We’re going to find out real quick how our guys are able to come back,” Webber said. “We definitely have to find some answers.”
On paper, Warren’s three straight victories heading into Tuesday’s collapse at Stevenson seemed impressive.
The Blue Devils defeated Libertyville, Deerfield and Round Lake by an average of 37 points per game. But head coach Ryan Webber thinks it’s possible those lopsided wins did his team the ultimate disservice as a tune-up for the red-hot Patriots.
“We played well in those three games, but I think all of a sudden it was like we thought we were bigger than we are,” Webber said. “We had a lack of focus for the Stevenson game. We couldn’t sustain a high level of effort. We don’t want to feel this feeling again. We’ve got to make sure that we are always prepared to compete at a high level. We can’t lose that focus again.”
With every game, Grant’s young guns are learning how to handle adversity a little bit better.
Turnovers have been an issue all season for the 9-12 Bulldogs, who have shown a tendency to get flustered and make mistakes under pressure. But on Tuesday against Wauconda , they weathered multiple storms, and that was a welcome sight for head coach Wayne Bosworth.
Grant got a 72-62 victory over Wauconda despite allowing a couple of big leads to disappear over the course of the game.
“We were up 12-0 early in the game, but they went on a big run and the score was 12-11 at the end of the first quarter,” Bosworth said. “What was nice is that we came back strong and in the third quarter we built the lead back up to as many as 21 points.
“We just need to be more consistent. We were running through our offense perfectly at the start of the game when we went up 12-0, but then we got too excited and started making mistakes. We just get too caught up in the moment sometimes or we’ll let the pressure get to us.
“Against Wauconda, we started to see some bright spots with how we can handle runs and pressure if we just stay consistent and keep our composure.”
Grant junior guard Mike Burns is burning it up from 3-point range.
And there’s probably no one who is more fired up about it than head coach Wayne Bosworth, who isn’t used to seeing so many long-range bombs hit the bottom of the next.
Known for their strong inside play and drives to the basket, the Bulldogs have been missing a consistent 3-point shooting threat in recent years. Burns, who returned to the lineup after sitting out the first month of the season with a broken hand, gave Grant a different look when he hit 3 shots from beyond the arc on Tuesday against Wauconda. He finished with a career-high 19 points.
“Mike is a legitimate 3-point shooter,” Bosworth said. “He’s shooting 43 percent from 3-point range and it’s really helping our team because teams won’t be able to key in on our big guys inside so much anymore.”
Fellow junior guard Matt Malmberg is also doing his share to keep the defenses honest. He hit three 3-pointers on his way to 11 points against Wauconda.
On the game, Grant knocked down a total of seven 3-pointers.
“That (seven 3-pointers) is a lot for us. We are telling our big guys that if they are doubled inside, they need to look to kick it back out to guys like Mike and Matt right away,” Bosworth said. “With those 3-point shots, we’re not a one-dimensional team like we have been in the past.”
Ups and downs:
High risk, high reward.
That’s Grant junior point guard Ryan Noda in a nutshell.
Noda is a dynamic shooter, ball-handler and passer wrapped up in a 6-foot-4 frame. He’s a tough matchup for a lot of smaller point guards, and can wow fans with his fun, up-tempo style.
His upside, which includes an impressive 6 assists and 10 points per game, makes it easier for Grant coach Wayne Bosworth to accept the 6 turnovers a game that comes with it.
“Ryan has done some fantastic things for us this year,” Bosworth said. “He’s such a great athlete and he can make so many big plays. Now it’s just about gaining that consistency, and that comes with experience and maturity. This is still just his first full year of varsity basketball. The turnovers are tough, but he’s getting better every game with taking care of the ball.”
Noda is already climbing up the ranks in Grant’s record books for single-season assists and steals. By the end of the season, Bosworth expects him to finish in the top 10 in both categories.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.