Friday, January 7, 2011

Galesburg HS keeps on Streak-ing, Eisenhower HS readies for challenge

In the finale of the 2009-10 season, the Moline (Ill.) girls' basketball ran past Galesburg 97-53, the largest loss of the season for coach Evan Massey and the Streaks. Well, they got a little payback Thursday night, beating the Maroons 62-53 behind 13 points from Jamie Johnson and contributions from a host of others.

Galesburg's 10th victory in a row was the first over Moline in four years and left the Streaks (15-3, 4-1 Western Big 6) a half-game behind league leader Rock Island (5-1).

After the Maroons (10-11, 3-2) closed within 53-56 with about 3 minutes left in the fourth quarter, Johnson corralled an offensive rebound and found teammate Mickey Rodriguez lurking at the 3-point line. The senior made her shot for a five-point margin and Galesburg made 6-of-8 at the line down the stretch to hold on.

Here are Coach Massey's comments from his blog: "Not our best game of the year but a good road win. There are MANY things I like about this team. But one of the things I like about this team is their enthusiasm. I think it comes from them caring about each other. After the win, after they shook hands, it was so exciting to see our players hugging the coaches and hugging each other. As hard as they have worked in the offseason and during this season, it is good to see how much they enjoy their successes."

Word that. Here is the Formula stuff:

- Attempted 55 shots (goal is 72)
- Attempted 23 3-pointers (goal is 36)
- Rebounded 58 percent of the misses on offense (goal is 40 percent)
- Forced 21 turnovers (goal is 26)
- Attempted four more shots than Moline (goal is 15)

So, much as Grinnell did a night earlier, Galesburg found a way to win when The System was taken away by an opponent. Nice going. The Streaks host Queen of Peace at 2:30 p.m. EST on Saturday, and I wish them the best of luck.

Hey, remember the Eisenhower HS boys' team from Blue Island, Ill.? The first-year System team coached by Mike Curta? Yeah, I figured you did.

Well, over the Holidays, they went through an amazing streak of games, six in seven days during one stretch, followed by another tournament featuring back-to-back games less than a week later. All this denied Coach Curta the necessary practice time to make adjustments, make improvements and otherwise coach his team.

And, really, Eisenhower (7-9) didn't need much tweaking on the offensive end, at least on its effort from the 3-point line. The Cardinals are 225-for-796 from beyond the arc, on pace to set state records for both numbers and should at least challenge the national marks, as well. Pretty impressive.

Coach Curta and his team face a tough challenge Friday night, defending Class 3A state champ Hillcrest travels to play on Eisenhower's home court. Game time was scheduled for 8 p.m. EST, and I'll be sure to let you know how it goes.

Now, as he has all season, Coach Curta was kind enough to give us a glimpse into what he worked on with his team during its recent practice sessions. This included some suggestions from System guru Gary Smith, the retired coach from the University of the Redlands, and Coach Massey. This is great stuff, so please pay attention:

Coach Curta: "We had a really solid six days of practice since last Friday. We spent quite a bit of time watching video of our games over Christmas and really tried to get the kids to see what was happening on the floor and then tell us what were the good things and what we needed to work on. I’ve always thought that when the kids respond initially to what they see on video with their thoughts it gives our team much better insight into where we are at.

"Once on the floor, we tried to keep things simple and work on refining those few things that we are really trying to do well. We incorporated more varied shooting drills to try and simulate getting quality shots up while going at our pace. They were also more competitive than we had been doing which got the kids juices flowing. Coach Smith was a great help to us with a couple of ideas that I think will help us on both offense and defense. I went back to the message board and printed out all of his messages and our staff bounced around some of the things that he had found successful with his group at Redlands.

"Offensively we are, as always, concentrating on the speed with which we convert from defense to offense. We also tweaked a few things with our 2 man diving back through the lane if we are unable to get him an open look off the staggers, or we are unable to get a slip. In addition, we have really been pushing our point guards to be more aggressive in looking to score first.

"Defensively we were able to spend more time with our presses, particularly our STAY call. We spent most of our time in this area walking through ball movement and rotations so that the kids could see how we need to be more aggressive. Coach Massey’s 5-on-4 drill with a coach inbounding and dictating various offensive looks for the defense was really helpful to the kids.

"As far as (Friday), we play a conference opponent who is the defending 3A state champion and is currently having another great season….I think that they have something like 23 or 24 straight seasons of 20 wins or more. This is the game that I have been looking forward to the most because they are really good, well coached, they like to pressure and run, and it will be a great challenge for us. It also has put our kids in the spotlight this week.

"We started late last week with a big spread in one of our major papers here in Chicago. Then we started getting calls from television outlets telling us that they have heard about our style of play and had an interest in coming out to see our kids. There was an interview for a high school sports show in the area on Monday. Next Comcast Sports came out on Wednesday for a feature that they will be doing on their highlight show next Friday night. Finally, our local NBC morning show gave us some notice as their game of the week tonight.

"Everyone has been very complimentary and what has stood out for all of them is the fact that all of the kids are playing and we are having fun playing the game of basketball. Now if we can string some wins together we will really have something going here in Blue Island!"

Wow, I spoke the truth, right? Best of luck to Coach Curta and the Cardinals.

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