The result of Saturday night’s rivalry game between Athens Academy and Prince Avenue Christian School was settled on the glass.
The Spartans defeated the Wolverines 51-35 in the Sinkwich Spartan Center. Following Saturday’s game had the two head coaches feeling nearly opposite about their teams.
One coach, Michael Salvia, walked away pleased with his team’s rebounding efforts. The Spartans allowed only two offensive rebounds by the Wolverines in the first half. The Spartans are a big team. The Spartans get off the bus with three players standing 6 feet 5 inches tall or taller.
Juniors Deion Colzie, Hugh Laughlin and John Ferguson clogged the paint and provided some pop inside. Colzie put in nine points and a thunderous dunk on a breakaway; Ferguson added six points off the bench.
“I thought we rebounded the ball well,” Salvia said. “We only allowed them to have two offensive rebounds in the first half and that’s kind of been an Achilles Heel for us. We didn’t attack the glass as well as we could. We also only turned the ball over six times in the first half. When those two stat lines are in our favor, we’re pretty good. When we’re turning ball over and we’re lazy on the glass, that’s when teams start to run away from us.”
Salvia has the weapon of size every night with this edition of the Spartans, but in the six games that had been played, the dominance in the rebounding category hadn’t been consistent and as evident as it was on Saturday night.
“When you look at our makeup, we’re pretty big,” Salvia said. “You’d expect them to rebound. They’re teenagers and they don’t always do it. Sometimes you have to remind them and encourage them and that’s what they’re job is.”
The inside presence opened up some outside opportunities for the Spartans as well. Coming into the season Salvia was tasked with finding guards that could hit the three-point shot in a way that resembled last year’s backcourt duo of Lawrence Jang and Matthew Marvel. The Spartans haven’t directly replaced the duo, but Saturday night offered a glimpse into potential relief in their absence.
Senior Wyatt Smith and junior Jack Nasworthy both led the Spartans in scoring with 11 points, Nasworthy’s points coming off the bench. Both players struck from the three-point line three times. Sophomore Aidan Saeed added another three-pointer to give the Spartans seven on the night.
“What’s going to open up the inside more for us is that if the guys outside can shoot and with them doing that, we’ll shoot some more threes, but we’ll also get the inside outside game going,” Salvia said.
The other coach, Will Cantrell, came away disappointed in his team's effort and toughness. Cantrell felt the difference between the two teams on Saturday came in the paint and in the confidence tally.
“I thought we played extremely soft on the boards and I thought we played extremely hesitant and not confident on the offensive end,” Cantrell said. “They kicked our fanny on the boards. They’re getting two, three, sometimes even four opportunities in a possession. We’re coming down and not playing very confidently.”
The Wolverines were led in scoring by senior Andrew Cheek who scored 15 of the Wolverines’ first 16 points. Cheek finished with 20 points. Cantrell expects in the next few weeks that other players will step up.
“Andrew (Cheek) is playing his tail off and he needs some help,” Cantrell said. “There is opportunity for someone to step up and help him.”
Admittedly, Saturday’s performance was one of the most difficult and frustrating in Cantrell’s tenure due to the manner in which the Wolverines lost on one of the biggest stages they will be put in during the regular season. Cantrell expects things to improve for the Wolverines, but they have to begin in practice.
“We have to go to work, I can’t wait for practice, we have to work, that’s where we go from here,” Cantrell said.