With just a single player returning from last season’s squad that went 17-8, the Wilcox boys varsity basketball team appears to have some tough sledding ahead this winter. After dropping their opening preseason match 73-38 against James Logan, the Chargers returned home to suffer another lopsided defeat, 77-61 to Mountain View.
Despite the second-straight loss, the inexperienced squad gained some significant traction under second-year Head Coach Robert Toloy. The Chargers were clearly the lesser team on the evening, but they did do a good job of getting to the free throw line. The aforementioned lone returner is senior guard Christian Fitzpatrick, who tied for a team-high 17 points. Nearly half of the Chargers 19 first-half points came from the free throw line. Fitzpatrick led the way by making eight of his ten free throws on the evening. The loss certainly wasn’t for a lack of effort.
“We dug a deep hole that was too deep for us to come out of, [but] I thought in the second half we probably outscored them. Our pressure, we imposed our will, like we are designed to do,” commented coach Toloy. “I was really proud of the kids, we played hard, probably forced them into a bunch of turnovers and we did a very good job of turning the turnovers into quick scores which is something we have been having a problem with. I walk away from this game feeling like we got better today. Hopefully we can learn to take care of things early on in the game so we don’t dig these holes.”
Perhaps an area of an improvement would be defensive rebounding as the Mountain View Spartans kept possessions alive frequently for second-chance points. Wilcox didn’t have a significant height disadvantage, but they were without the services of 6’5” senior forward Zach Hill, still out with an ankle injury suffered during the football season.
“It’s a part of our youth,” added coach Toloy on the rebounding struggles. “We do a lot of work on defensive rebounds in practice and it’s just something that you know, you can work it and work it in practice over and over again, [but] transferring it into the game is another thing, so it’s going to take a little time. We’re not a very good rebounding team right now, but we’ll get better.”
As coach Toloy mentioned, his Chargers were able to force the Spartans into a number of turnovers, including a handful of quality steals. Wilcox put in a strong effort throughout the game despite trailing by double digits most of the night.
Twin brothers Franchon and Deshawn Butler seemed to get going as the game went along. The energy from the two juniors helped pave the way for a strong end to the first half and even stronger third quarter. Deshawn finished the game with 17 points while brother Franchon added 14 of his own.
The Chargers’ effort certainly wasn’t subpar in the first quarter, but Wilcox clearly found another gear late in the first half. They would carry that momentum over into the third quarter where they actually outscored the Spartans. With Mountain View resting most of their starting lineup in the third, the Chargers were on fire out of the break, outscoring the Spartans 23-12 in the third quarter.
“I played with [Franchon and DeShawn] over the summer” commented Fitzpatrick on building chemistry with all brand new teammates this season. “That gave me a little bit more of a chance to learn their games and learn what their tendencies are.”
Fitzpatrick was not only impressed with his two new teammates, but with his team’s overall ability to get to the free throw line.
“That’s what we mostly take pride on is getting to the basket,” added the senior. “Try to make contact and hit our free throws. Most of the time, when you can hit your free throws and get to the basket consistently, you can stay in the game a little bit more just off those free throws. That stops the clock and gets you time to score.”
While Wilcox’s third quarter run did come with a number of the Spartans’ starters on the bench, the Chargers made sure to take advantage. Their third quarter performance cut the first half deficit from 23 points to just 11 heading into the fourth. Mountain View would turn things around with their starters back on the floor, but they only outscored Wilcox 23-19 in the final frame. Not to mention, Wilcox was playing most of the game with just seven players, (only eight total players were in uniform).
“I typically play about 10 to 13,” responded coach Toloy about his roster. “Normally we have about 15 players, especially the way we play, but the body count that we have, right now is a pretty solid rotation with seven or eight. It can be challenging [missing players to injury], but it gives an opportunity for some of these other guys to play that much more and get better.”
The Chargers next play again on Wednesday Nov. 30 against Silver Creek, which is the first game of a tournament hosted by James Lick High School.