RIVALRY REALISM: BOYS BASKETBALL SEEKS GROWTH, IMPROVEMENT AFTER LOSS TO RIVAL FATHER GABRIEL RICHARD
By Nicholas Alumkal ’23, for The Alcove student newspaper.
The result may have been a loss on Friday, but the spirits remained high for the Greenhills boys basketball squad. After falling to their down-road rival, Father Gabriel Richard (FGR), by a score of 47-34 the players stressed continued growth for the young Gryphon team.
“We were excited for this game,” said Alex Ye ’24, who scored eight points. “Our previous game against Foley on Tuesday (Feb. 7), we played a pretty clean game; but they [FGR] hit some big shots down the stretch. We feel like we are playing much better basketball than at the start of the season. We came in thinking this would be a great game, but they pulled away at the end. Tough loss.”
These two teams met up earlier in the season on Jan. 24, when the Fighting Irish defeated their rival 61-43. Heading into the second matchup of the season, the Gryphons sought to learn from what they saw from the Irish the first time around. The coaches stressed decreasing turnovers by taking care of the ball, and offensive rebounds to give the Gryphons more chances to score and tire the defense out.
“We were still battling some injuries in that [first FGR] game,” said Assistant Coach Tom Ward. “I think the game was tied at half and they came out and had a really good third quarter and cruised from there. I think strong starts are a big focus. We want to get off to a good start at tip-off, and also the start of the second half.”
The visiting FGR Fighting Irish made their presence felt early, outscoring the Gryphons 15-10 in the first quarter. Greenhills reeled them back in to close out the half at a score of 24-18 largely due to offensive rebounds and finding open shooters to knock down threes.
“We are hoping to hang our hat on more outside shooting,” said Head Coach Andrew Wright. “We have a lot of shooters, and have been working hard to get those guys free and shoot at a high percentage. We have been working the last couple practices on trying to make sure our shooters get cleaner looks.”
Out of the intermission, Greenhills matched FGR in scoring at 11 each during the third quarter in a call-and-response game of offensive artistry to set the score at 35-29 favoring the visitors. When the fourth quarter started and the chips were down, it was FGR who had a chip on their shoulder, outdoing the Gryphons 12-5 in the final stanza. No luck for the Irish was necessary.
“We have had trouble the whole season closing out the game,” said Ye. “I think defensive anticipation and communication can fall due to fatigue late in games. Keeping the energy up on offense and defense, and also knowing where to go is difficult. As you progress in the game, your mind and body gets tired—so keeping your head in the game is really important for us.”
The Gryphons are determined to correct their fragmented, fourth-quarter play.
“We have had some trouble down the stretch in big games, it happened again today,” said Lucas Nor ’23, who added six rebounds on the stat sheet. “But it’s ok, we are growing.”
Nor and the rest of the Gryphon squad looked at the loss through a critical lens, breaking down where they found success and where they could sharpen their skills.
“We are working on being confident in our game and the game plan we have; the offense, the defense, and trusting where we need to be at all times,” said Nor. “Today we showed we can execute pretty well. But then again, none of us shot insanely well, we were not extremely efficient.”
Entering Friday, Greenhills was coming off a seven-point loss to Bishop Foley on Tuesday Feb. 7 that eliminated the Gryphons from the Catholic League playoffs, a benchmark they seek to reach every year. The team still found positives in their losing effort to build on heading into the final month of the season.
“At Bishop Foley on Tuesday, in the first quarter we had six turnovers and we were down five points,” said Ward. “In the second quarter, we had no turnovers and we outscored Bishop Foley by seven. Obviously, turnovers are an important part of the game, but for us especially, they are crucial. We need to work to eliminate them or keep them as low as possible. If we do that, we have been really successful.”
After Friday’s result and Catholic League play concluded, the Gryphons sit with a 5-10 record and 3-7 in conference play. Much of their Catholic League play was marred by injuries. But with the division section of their schedule in the rear-view the team is now looking toward being back to full-strength down the stretch.
“It will help most of all in practice,” said Wright. “When we have guys missing in practice or injured in practice, we do not get to put lineups out there that simulate what we will see in games; that will be the biggest help.”
This entire season has followed the axiom of live a little, learn a lot as the coaching staff and players are consistently stressing improvement across the board and gaining a stronger grasp of each facet of the game.
“We are trying to get better at everything,” said Wright. “Boxing out is a big one, we still have a lot to improve on ball-handling, limiting turnovers. There is a ton of talent here. We are still working on some of the macro elements of basketball—boxing out, ball pressure, getting back on defense, matching up and knowing where our guys are—and once when get to a point where all that stuff is passing grade we starting working on the micro—adding some set plays and little things into our game. As one of the younger teams in our league, that is something that is just growing pains.”
The team has identified some key areas that it can regularly rely on in order to mismatch their opponents and find success in their upcoming games and playoffs next month.
“I would like to say that we can reliably count on our offensive rebounds and our rebounding in general,” said Ward. “We are building to that, I do not think we are there yet, but hopefully in a month when we are getting ready for districts, we can say that’s the big thing.”
Next up for the Gryphons is a short non-conference slate as they approach the postseason, where they expect a deep run if all the pieces fall into place.
“If we put it all together, I think we can reach the regional finals,” said Ye. “If we clean it up and keep our head in the game all the time, I think we can go really far.”
The loss to rival FGR on Friday will not be airbrushed from history or chalked up to any excuses. This Greenhills basketball squad has come to realize every time they take the court it is an opportunity to learn, grow, and develop.
“We just have to keep working hard, we have to trust in each other, trust in ourselves, trust in the coaches, and just trust in this team that we are building,” said Nor. “For the past couple of years, we have had a lot of new guys. The losses are not easy, but Districts and Regionals are what matter and we are getting there.”