Jackets drop opener, show promise

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Mineola basketball fans can look forward to another exciting run of top-shelf basketball. Precise execution, composure and physicality highlighted the Yellowjackets’ home opener Tuesday against 4A Paris. Although the Jackets dropped the game 58-52, they demonstrated the diverse talents which will serve them well in the new campaign. 

Mineola led through most of the game. Strong inside play, crisp passing and solid guard production led the team. A well-coached man-to-man defense and a periodic full-court press kept Paris off balance. Although the talented Wildcat squad got their share of driving and fast-break points, the Yellowjackets matched them at every turn, and with 2:22 to play, the score was notched at 50.

Senior Wiley Franks then brought down a tough defensive rebound and dribbled out to escape the “slap and reach” Wildcat defense. Franks found Kelby Bruner with an excellent pass, and Bruner scored to put Mineola up by two. The last minute and a half just did not go Mineola’s way.  A back court violation, a Paris 3-point play, and a long basket in the closing seconds snatched the win from the Yellowjackets. 

Seniors Bruner, Kaleb Griffin and Colt Marlow joined junior Jonah Fischer and freshman T.J. Moreland in the starting five. Coach Ryan Steadman freely mixed playing combinations throughout the game. Franks, Dawson Pendergrass, Aiden Steward, De’Vante Stephens and Andrew Stinchfield rounded out the roster.

Most impressive on the night was the Yellowjackets’ court awareness. The team communicated well and reacted decisively to the swiftly-changing flow of the game. There are no doubt issues yet to be addressed. Chief among them are learning to combat a defense which traps in the front court, and how to defensively handle a team that uses dual low posts and rotates the posts simultaneously.  However, those issues can be corrected. 

The game was decided in two relatively brief periods of second-half play. In the third quarter, Paris began to trap the Jacket wings and created successive turnovers which translated to points. In the final stanza, Mineola gave up a 9-point lead after three successive turnovers. The two periods of play were the only untidy minutes of the game, but against a very good Paris team, it was too much charity.   

The takeaways from the Paris game are overwhelmingly positive. The Jackets maintained their composure in the face of a very fast and athletic opposition. They gave away no cheap buckets in the first half and largely controlled the tempo. In the second half, the play began to loosen, and Mineola was forced to play more of Paris’ game. Despite this, the Yellowjackets were in the game to the end, and the outcome could have easily fallen their way. It promises to be an exciting year.

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