While the winter break at Lewis and Clark is seen as needed respite for many beleaguered students, war-torn from finals week, it has a different effect on those students who represent the school on the basketball court. A mid-season break from regular practices and games has a huge impact on the players’ ability to perform to their peak.
“We just got back to practice on Saturday (December 28), but not everybody was able to get back. Sunday we had enough to practice.” Said head coach Doug Stotler, following a scrappy game between his team and the visiting Archers from St. Louis Community College. “(without practice) the skill level is what suffers the most.”
The Trailblazers pulled out a 73-62 victory in what was a tough, sloppy, hard-scrabble game of basketball. A game much like a street game you might see at a park around Alton in warmer weather. A Trailblazer team that was hitting their stride after a confident win over ranked Olney Central had to stop in their tracks and not play or practice for over two weeks, and that bit of rust from the break was apparent on both sides.
“Neither team could score. We kept telling our guys, ‘Hey drive to the basket’ and they kept thinking, ‘Well i could make this shot because i’m open’ and they never did.” Noted Stotler following the game, attributing the flow of the game to that aforementioned rust. “No doubt (that rust played a factor). You’re never sharp after you sit for fourteen days. We played on the 14th of December, so I guess it’s been even longer than that for a game, but 14 days off is what we had (until practice Saturday December 28).
DeAngelo Ware is proving to be a star in the Trailblazer lineup, a guard who knows when to put the game on his shoulders and one who knows how to exploit weaknesses in defenses. The highlight of the contest coming when Ware threw down a tenacious dunk in the first half, drawing a shooting foul in the process. The dunk lifted many in the stands off their feet. I almost jumped too, but feel I should be professional in these circumstances despite how great the dunk was. Stotler credited Ware for turning the game on its head.
“Again, we’re not scoring, not making outside shots, and (Ware) finally understood ‘Hey i’m gonna make some baskets if I drive the ball’ and that’s what his forte is anyway. He really, really turned the game around for us and that’s what its about. Him playing to his strengths, and what can you say, he’s probably the star of the game.”
Stotler commended his team for playing hard, despite having trouble shooting. “What I like the most about tonight is we played really, really hard. We really tried hard, and so did they. If we can get that kind of effort, and we can get our feet back under us, skill-wise, in the next five days before we play again, I think we’ll knock that rust off pretty quickly.”
With the break behind them, the Trailblazers now sit at an impressive 8-3 on the season, and host Southeastern Illinois in their next contest on January 8. Games start to come thick and fast after that, with the L&C men playing five games in ten days from the 8th through the 18th. For more information on men’s basketball, and all Trailblazer sports, visit LC.edu/Athletics.