– No school. No practice. No execution.
On Friday night, Class 4A No. 6 McCutcheon saw its unbeaten streak go by the wayside in a 60-55 loss at Westfield, which won for just the second time in its past 27 games.
Mavericks coach Rick Peckinpaugh had questions on his way out of the locker room.
How many free throws did McCutcheon miss? The answer: 12. How many bunnies did the Mavs miss? There were a few, including a fast break in the middle of the fourth quarter that would’ve have given McCutcheon the lead.
“People think it’s OK to just go play games,” Peckinpaugh said. “Our administration from the top, if (Tippecanoe School Corp. superintendent) Scott Hanback thinks you can go play basketball or go do wrestling or whatever sporting event without having practices, that’s kind of asinine.
“Put yourself in their position. They lose a game maybe because they weren’t allowed to practice. When you don’t make free throws and you are a little rusty, it is because of not practicing. If we had a whole week of practice, I feel like that would have been a different story.”
Westfield (2-8) was without one of its top players in Ian Kristensen, a defensive leader for the Shamrocks.
Still, the game plan with McCutcheon’s Darnell Butler and Spencer Caldwell sidelined was to force Tre’Shon Heard to shoot over the top.
If Heard caught fire, the Shamrocks probably were going to lose. McCutcheon’s senior guard was just 4-of-16, scoring 16 points and adding seven rebounds.
“Butler being out, we didn’t prepare any different. Our focus was, if Heard hits 3s over us, fine,” Westfield coach Eric Rauch said. “As soon as he puts it on the wood one time, we were going to run and help.”
Already short-handed with two injured starters, McCutcheon (10-1) brought sophomore Gavin Dunbar up from the junior varsity. Dunbar exited late in the first half after he scored on a lob that gave the Mavericks a 19-18 lead. Dunbar fell to the floor grabbing his right ankle before being helped off the court.
“We are very short depth-wise, and our kids got a little tired,” Peckinpaugh said. “That’s another thing. When you don’t practice, you lose conditioning.”
Heard tried to carry the load and Dionte Nunn provided nine points, nine rebounds and four assists, but McCutcheon kept seeing its offensive charges being halted by the play of 6-5 junior Charlie Warner.
Warner made three 3s and pulled down two late rebounds when McCutcheon had chances to stay alive, forcing the Mavericks to foul him. At the line, Warner was 14-for-14 and finished with 27 points.
McCutcheon has little time to fret with a trip to Richmond tonight.
“We missed a lot of free throws and we win the game if we hit those free throws,” Nunn said. “We’ve got to get right back to the next game, stop thinking about this one and get ready for the next one.”
Knowing McCutcheon faced a big game on Saturday, the Shamrocks approached Friday night knowing they had a shot to be the Mavericks’ first loss.
“We were joking that ESPN tweeted they were ripe for the picking,” Rauch said. “They are coming off a 60-point win, they are undefeated and they are playing little old Westfield. This is a trap game. When we were playing well, we always talked to the guys about this would be a trap game. We embraced we were the trap game.”