COWAN — Delta’s Kaleb Slaven made sure to establish the theme the Eagles would play with every night.
The Delta boys basketball team crashed the boards early and often in a 60-32 win over Cowan.
Coming off the first possession of the game, a missed shot, Slaven corralled the offensive rebound and went back up for an easy basket.
On the next possession, fellow big man Matt Norris followed suit, collecting an offensive rebound and immediately scoring.
Less then a minute into the game and the tone was set.
With Slaven at 6-foot-6 and Norris at 6-8, there was virtually nothing the Cowan defenders could do. Michael Smith stands at 6-4 for the Blackhawks, but no other player rises above 6-1.
Meaning it was easy pickings for the Delta duo, one that will be the focal point of the offense.
“With Matt, Kaleb and Adam Haynes, that’s our advantage and we want to get the ball inside,” Delta coach Ryan VanSkyock said. “Those three are crashing the boards every time, and they did an outstanding job.”
Slaven and Norris collected 10 rebounds alone in the first quarter. Together, they pulled down 24 rebounds, Norris with a team-high 13. As a team, Delta out-rebounded Cowan 34-10, with second-chance opportunities abundant for the Eagles.
VanSkyock says his team reads an eight-page scouting report on every team, what they run and what Delta can to do exploit weaknesses.
Cowan countered by switching from man defense to a 2-3 zone late in the first quarter and during the second — a defense where one player guards the paint, two more stand just outside the low post on each side, and two hover on the perimeter. It can leave openings along the perimeter, but is meant to prevent penetration to the basket and limit the effectiveness of big men.
“We tried to mix it up, throw two or three different zones at them,” Cowan coach Lee Ingles said. “We tried to speed them up and press, but when they missed, they went and got it. We didn’t rebound well.”
It seemed to work at first, but accurate passing allowed Slaven and Norris to slip to the basket and score anyway. Slaven finished with a team-high 19 points, while Norris had 10. Adam Haynes also made an impact, fighting his way into the lane on his way to 5 of 5 shooting and 11 points.
If Cowan didn’t have the size to combat Delta in the paint, it would have to live from the three point line. Brady Harris drained four 3-pointers to keep the Blackhawks in the game, but his 12 points weren’t enough. Clayton Kiplinger added 10 points for Cowan.
It’s just the first game of the year for Delta, who will face teams with far more size than Cowan. But for a team that got a late start because of football season, it passed its first test.
“We followed the game plan knowing we had the size advantage and we were going to pound the post,” Slaven said. “Give it to the big dudes and it’s gonna be all right.”
Contact prep sports reporter David Polaski at (765) 213-5848. Follow him on Twitter @DavidPolaskiTSP.