No one said this would be easy.
The rebuilding of a program, even at a school with an athletic pedigree like City High, is one of fits and starts. One step forward and two steps back.
That’s what it seemed like Friday as the Little Hawk boys basketball team fell way behind early and could never catch up in a 51-39 loss to Cedar Rapids Jefferson.
City is 5-10 overall and 1-9 in the MVC. Jefferson is 5-5 in the MVC and 8-7 overall.
City was bidding to win its second consecutive Mississippi Valley Conference game and build some momentum after a nice victory Tuesday at Waterloo East. But that shot in the arm was short-lived thanks to some sharpshooting by Jefferson’s guards against a zone that City deployed early in the game.
Jefferson raced to leads of 10-2 and 15-2 causing City coach Don Showalter to call timeouts in an effort to stem the tide. It didn’t work, and eventually the J-Hawks built a 24-4 lead with 5:25 left in the first half.
“We got off to a terrible start,” City senior Andy Hein said. “That’s what killed us.”
Tiny guard Creighton Robinson was 3-of-3 from 3-point range in the first half and Ky Kramer hit 2-of-4. So much for that zone.
“Our coaches told us to expect the deep three, but it’s kind of different when you’re seeing that out on the court and (you’re thinking) there’s no way he’s going to shoot that,” Hein said.
“We started out real bad,” Lonnie Chester said. “We didn’t close out on any of the shooters, particularly No. 5 (Robinson). He had eight points the first couple of minutes.”
Jefferson has three players averaging more than 40 percent from behind the arc, so City expected to see some shots fly.
“I wasn’t expecting him to hit it like that, though,” Chester said.
Meanwhile City couldn’t buy a basket. The Little Hawks made 2-of-10 shots in the first quarter as they fell behind 18-4. They also committed four turnovers. City scored in two of its first 16 possessions to fall behind 24-4.
“The start of the game, yeah, that was big,” Jefferson coach Stu Ordman said. “They probably saw some tapes and said, ‘OK, we’re going to zone them.’ Luckily our shots went down. Our defense was pretty good in the first quarter.”
City closed to within 29-18 at halftime as the offense awakened at least for a while. Chester and Hein hit threes, Chester and Tony Perry scored in transition and Ryan Young hit a baseline jumper to get it rolling.
“We came out in the second quarter and just dug away at it, but we just couldn’t, I don’t know, we just struggled putting it in the hoop tonight,” Hein said. “We haven’t really been able to play that well at home this year and we wanted to finally do that. We thought tonight would be the night.”
But the third quarter was even worse than the first. City scored but one basket, and Jefferson wasn’t much better, managing five points. City’s bucket came on a Ladarius Taylor dunk with just 45 seconds left in the third quarter. City was 1-for-6 with four turnovers.
“We were really stagnant, for sure,” Hein said. “We had a bunch of turnovers and just didn’t make shots.”
“Tonight wasn’t our night shooting the ball, just missing everything,” Chester said.
Chester said he felt more comfortable once City switched to a man-to-man defense. But Jefferson used its quickness to drive to the hoop against the man, too. The early 20-point deficit was just too much to overcome, especially on a night when the Little Hawks shot 35 percent from the field.
C.R. JEFFERSON (51) – Jacob Olson 1-5 2-2 4, Creighton Robinson 7-13 2-2 19, Ky Kramer 7-11 5-5 21, Jacob Van Oort 2-2 0-0 5, Layne Sullivan 1-4 0-0 2, Lucas Larson 0-0 0-0 0, Brandon Wiederin 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-35 9-9.
CITY HIGH (39) – Andy Hein 1-10 0-0 3, Malin Craig 0-4 0-0 0, Lonnie Chester 4-7 7-8 16, Cameron Spears 1-20-1 2, Tony Perry 4-6 1-2 10, Quinton Forrester 1-1 0-0 2, Ladarius Taylor 1-6 0-0 2, Ryan Young 1-1 0-2 2, Hugh Ritter 0-0 0-0 0, Ja’Marty Hall 0-1 0-0 0, Gionni Hickman 1-2 0-1 2. Totals 14-40 8-14.
3-point goals – C.R. Jefferson 6-15 (Olson 0-1, Robinson 3-7, Kramer 2-5, Sullivan 0-1, Van Oort 1-1 ), City High 3-19 (Hein1-9, Chester1-2, Craig 0-1, Taylor 0-4, Perry 1-1, Hall 0-1, Hickman 0-1 ). Total fouls – C.R. Jefferson 14, City High 12. Fouled out – Chester.