Midway through the third quarter of Friday night’s game, Parkside’s boys basketball team held a 30-point lead over the Easton Warriors, but Rams’ head coach Dave Byer still wanted to see his players work within the offensive system.
“Five passes!” he yelled as Dajour Diggs brought the ball up the court.
But the senior guard saw something different, and knew that he needed just one pass to get a bucket on this possession. Colen Gaynor made a cut down the baseline and slammed home a lob courtesy of Diggs to increase the Rams’ lead.
“Five passes are a part of our offense,” Byer said. “It’s about passing to the wing then cutting through, and we look for five passes to get the best shot.
“Diggs has been with me for four years. He looked at me and saw the backdoor cut, which we practice too; we set a back screen and look for Colen over the top. I’m cool with that. We played good tonight.”
The lead for the Rams only grew from there. Byer pulled his starters and stopped pressing in the fourth quarter and watched his bench close out a 98-37 win over Easton, the defending Bayside Conference champions.
“I was expecting to come out with a bang, but I wasn’t expecting that,” Gaynor said of the 61-point win.
With the addition of Gaynor — who played last season at Stephen Decatur — in the offseason, Parkside had been labeled as the preseason favorite, in large part due to the fact that Gaynor already had tons of chemistry with Juwan Williams, Diggs and the rest of the Parkside squad from his middle school basketball and AAU days.
“When we all step on the floor, we just connect,” Gaynor said.
That chemistry was on display early and often in this game. Parkside began its run in the first quarter with a three-pointer from Gaynor that was assisted by Diggs, and then that was immediately followed by a bucket from outside from Diggs that was assisted by Gaynor.
Minutes later, Gaynor grabbed a defensive rebound after a missed Easton shot and fired an outlet pass to Williams, who then bounced a dime to Diggs for an easy lay-up.
“I know to go off of them and feed off of them,” Diggs said. “We all just share. Good chemistry is going to win.”
Another offseason addition for the Rams who shined in this game was Keyante Kelly. The 6-foot-4 junior made his debut with about three minutes left in the first quarter and was active on the boards, grabbing four rebounds, blocking a shot and scoring once in those final moments of the opening period.
For Kelly, this is the first season that he has been eligible to play basketball at Parkside, and this year with a loaded roster he has a chance to be a key part of something special.
“We knew he had the talent and we sat him down and we presented this opportunity to him,” Byer said. “He has really welcomed this opportunity. He has worked extremely hard in practice and he has the natural tools, too.”
In just three quarters of play, Kelly finished with eight rebounds off the bench to go along with five points and a pair of blocks. Along with Gaynor, Williams and Parkside’s other big men, the Rams were able to out-rebound Easton 37 to 19.
Gaynor led all rebounders with nine to go along with 19 points and seven assists, while Diggs finished with 20 points and 10 assists, a double-double, to go along with his four rebounds. Williams got his too, finishing with 19 points, five rebounds and four assists.
In addition to the scoring and rebounding margins, Parkside also had 11 steals to Easton’s five and eight blocks to Easton’s three. Holding the Warriors to less than 40 points is no easy task, but that tough defensive mindset is what the Rams will lean on to keep winning games.
“Defense is the main thing,” Gaynor said. “We have the offense, we know we can score, but defense wins games.”