During 16 seasons and three different stints as Southside coach, Rick Baumgartner developed a roll-it-out type of style that showcased the athleticism of his players, but at times left much to be desired defensively.
Seven games into this season, new coach Jeff Howard is finding old habits are hard to break.
“I just think these kids right now have not bought into what I’m trying to do,” Howard said. “I don’t think anyone has really bought into it yet because my way is different from what they’ve been used to seeing.”
Scoring 30 second-half points isn’t surprising to many who’ve watched Southside play over the years, but surrendering 35 points on the other end is what Howard hopes to change.
The Rebels (2-5) inability to guard people off the dribble led to their second consecutive loss in as many days as the Tigers (6-0) won 57-46 Saturday.
“I think it’s a commitment issue (on defense), and I think they’re also getting mixed messages,” Howard said. “There’s what’s called the ‘Southside way’ and then there’s a new way. I honestly can tell you from playing this game, that’s where I see the lack of commitment and hesitation at. They’ve got voices (in their ear) and my voice should be the loudest, at least when they’re in between these lines.”
With his preferred style, Howard said scoring 46 points should be enough to win.
Considering the Rebels’ 19 turnovers on Saturday, however, it’s hard to imagine lockdown defense making up for so many errors.
Similar to Jay County’s game plan Friday, Yorktown sat back in man-to-man defense waiting for Southside to come to them, or make mistakes.
“We didn’t want to get too close because they’re so fast and such good drivers,” Yorktown coach Greg Miller said. “We talked about team defense and just about keeping them in front the best we could because they’re so fast.”
Instead of pressuring the Rebels’ ballhandlers, Miller’s team created havoc by sitting back and jumping passing lanes to deny ball reversals.
Even if Yorktown didn’t get a deflection, Southside’s lack of aggressiveness caused a number of unforced errors 25-plus feet from the basket.
“We just had crucial mental mistakes,” Howard said. “Traveling when nobody is guarding us. Five second count when the particular offense we run, they’re told put a clock in your head and on three create. Just mental mistakes.”
Despite all the blunders, Southside cut the deficit to single digits in the second half after putting on a press that got the team out in transition. The pace changed to an up-and-down style reminiscent of what Baumgartner used to encourage.
Howard said he has no problem adopting some of those principles, but the biggest problem was when Southside got caught in half-court sets. The flex type of motion Howard likes to run hasn’t caught on yet, and the team struggled.
“Because we’re not playing tough defense to create some easy shots (it’s tough to score),” Howard said. “If we’re not getting balls off the board, that kills our transition game. That’s what these kids are strongest at. These kids are good at transition and just creating things. Their speed and quickness should also translate to defense.”
Once the Tigers started to break the press, baskets came easy and often for everyone.
Yorktown’s balanced attack secured the win late, with three players scoring in double figures. Sophomores Caleb Morey and Riley Miller scored 12 and 10 points, respectively and senior Edmond Davis led all scorers with 14 points.
“They took a couple quick shots and we got some transition points that extended the lead a little bit,” Miller said. “Then our offense started moving a little better and moving the ball with a sense of urgency. Some shots showed up, we broke their press for a couple layups and we a couple guys be strong with the ball and get some assists out of that press.”