The Veterans boys basketball team was struggling on defense through its first six games of the year, giving up close to 75 points per game.
So head coach Chris Kothe decided to play mostly zone Friday night against Baldwin.
The move worked so well that he again decided to play zone against in his Saturday matchup with Stratford at Hawkins Arena, but he added a twist. With Quintez Cephus averaging more than 26 points per game for the Eagles, Kothe decided to play a box-and-one to slow down Cephus.
The move worked like a charm, with the Warhawks holding Cephus without a field goal attempt for the first 10 minutes of the game and only two points in the first half as the Warhawks pulled away to a 58-46 victory.
Nick Burnett led the way for Veterans with 15 points and 17 rebounds.
“I feel like this is a team with the most overall talent I have ever coached,” said Kothe, whose team lost in the first round of the GHSA Class AAAA playoffs a year ago. “We will play a great four minutes of basketball and then take our foot off the gas pedal for a few minutes, and I feel like that will get better when we get a little more comfortable playing with each other. I think we have led in every game we have played so far, and even though we are 3-5, I feel like we are going to be a pretty good basketball team.”
Veterans jumped out to an 18-7 lead after a quarter of play and was able to bother Stratford with physical, hard-nosed basketball. With Adrian Green and Alex Hodges keeping Cephus away from the ball, the Eagles struggled to get into any offensive flow.
Veterans stretched the lead to 25-13 on a basket by Makel Wallace midway through the second quarter, but Stratford cut the lead to 25-18 by the end of the half when James Mitchell hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Mitchell had nine points in the first half.
Veterans attempted to blow the game open in the third quarter, taking their biggest lead at 38-21 and ending the quarter still up 41-26. Cephus finally got going with 10 of his 16 points in the game coming in the quarter.
The Eagles got it as close as 43-36 on an O’Showen Williams basket, but that was as close as they came. For the game, Cephus was limited to only 10 shots.
“I don’t mind having a game when Quintez only takes that many shots, and it really just shows how unselfish he is on the court,” said Stratford head coach Jamie Dickey, whose team fell to 3-3. “We have seen all the trick defenses we can possibly see over the last few years, and I am sure we will see more of them this year. But we feel like we have other players who can score. Sure, we want him to get his shots, but at this time of year, it’s OK to get everyone involved and not force the issue.”