As far as coaching debuts go, Kirk Hanson will probably not forget his first game in the Greenwood Blue and Gold Tournament.
But he probably won’t remember it for the right reasons.
Hanson’s Branson Pirates outlasted Mountain Grove to pick up a rather sluggish 41-30 victory over the Panthers in the opening round of the Blue Division Thursday at Hammons Student Center.
“I’m disappointed in our defense,” Hanson said. “I’m disappointed in our rebounding. I really (am) kind of disappointed in almost the whole game because I know we can do better.
“If that was our best, then we’re going to have a long season.”
Hanson, who took over at Branson after a 34-year Hall of Fame career at Central Bible College, said he’s finding things a little different at the high school level.
“I think it’s a maturity level for one and two, what I’m learning, is the differences like the 20-minute halves versus four quarters,” Hanson said. “The kids are still young men learning how to play basketball and what I’ve got to convince them of is that I do know something about the game.”
That seemed to be a sticking point with Hanson.
Mountain Grove coach Mark Bernsen — himself a former longtime college coach back in the high school ranks for his second year with the Panthers — employed a zone defense on Thursday and the Pirates struggled with it.
“Let’s face it. Anytime you play against a zone it’s going to look like (you’re team’s flat),” Hanson said. “We’ve practiced against a zone, we know what to do. I tell them if you pass the ball 5, 6, 7, 8 times the zone is going to break down.
“When we do the one or two passes and then someone takes it to the rack against four or five guys, that’s not going to happen.”
Branson’s Da’Quan Ervin sank a 3-pointer just 15 seconds into the game, but the Pirates struggled throughout the first half offensively. Mountain Grove led 9-8 after one quarter before a 10-2 run in the second helped the Pirates to an 18-12 halftime lead.
In the third, Branson seemed to buy in to the multiple pass philosophy of Hanson’s against the zone. After having just three players score in the opening half, five Branson players found the basket in the third period as the Pirates surged to a commanding 35-17 lead.
Things went back the other way in the fourth for Branson, seeded No. 4 in the Blue Division. A six-point quarter — at the same time Mountain Grove’s Bobby Otwell was scoring 10 of his team-high 14 points — enabled the Panthers to close the gap to 39-30 before finally falling.
“We played awful,” said Ervin, who led the Pirates with 12 points. “We just came out flat. I guess we just thought they weren’t going to be a very good team and the first round wasn’t going to be that hard.”
Santana Texeira added 11 points and six rebounds for Branson and Isaiah Daniels — one of the few Pirates that played with a sense of urgency — added eight points and pulled down eight rebounds.
Hanson hopes Thursday’s effort was an aberration and the Pirates get back to business when they meet No. 5 Rogersville at 11 a.m. today at JQH Arena. Rogersville defeated Clever 82-68 on Thursday.
“One of the challenges I’ve had to face is ‘can I coach?'”, Hanson said. “Maybe I don’t know as much as I think I know. It’s neat to be a part of the history of this tournament and I’m particularly pleased to be at Branson and the good, classy people I work for.
“I think we’ll figure out this year.”