“You can’t let praise or criticisms get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.” John Wooden – former UCLA head basketball coach.
One of the greatest basketball coaches of all time might be a good source for Fort Campbell Falcons boys’ basketball head coach, John Cunningham, to quote to his team this week.
Before the matchup on Tuesday night with Lyon County, Cunningham admitted he expected a tough, very competitive and high speed game.
When Cunningham spoke these words, he was expecting his “run and gun” offense to marginalize the fundamentally-sound half-court play from the Lyons.
However, with a “run and gun” offense, teams have to have superior shooting percentages and the ability to crash the boards for second-chance points.
Lyon County’s effectively boxed out the Falcons under the boards, preventing them to get second-chance point attempts and eventually imposed their subtle will on the Falcons, who also turned the ball over more than normal.
To begin the game, the Lyons jumped out in front, 4-0, after the Falcons missed their first two shots from the floor.
The Falcons were able to answer with two shots of their own to tie the game at 4-4, but Lyon County found their half-court rhythm early as their senior leader, Warren Sutton, and teammates Andrew Brazzell and Jericho Wilkerson were able to feed off of one another effectively.
Eight minutes into the game, the Falcons found themselves down 18-8.
The irony of the night was Cunningham was the cool, calm and collected coach whereas Lyon County’s coach, Jeff Embry, was yelling orders at his team like an Army drill sergeant.
The second period was much more competitive as the Falcons were able to find their shot.
The problem was, Lyon County’s shooting and passing got even more effective, too.
Sutton, Brazzell and Wilkerson, along with Aaron Perdue and Bobby Staples kept Lyon County on pace in the 2nd period.
Austin Randolph and Marcus Tucker stepped it up for the Falcons to help out teammates Pedro Gelpi and Kyle Bryant.
Lyon County led at the half, 42-27.
Whatever Coach Cunningham told his players at halftime worked because the Falcons came out on fire in the 3rd quarter.
Mike Clayton stole a pass and fed Gelpi for the first score. Then Clayton would add another basket and Trey Neal would follow with a “trey” for his own.
With a couple minutes left in the third quarter, the Falcons had pulled to within 51-44 and had all the momentum going their way.
But, the best momentum killer is a timely shot in basketball and that was delivered by Perdue for the Lyons at the buzzer to push Lyon County’s lead back to 10, 54-44.
The fourth quarter was a repeat of the first quarter for the Lyons and the Falcons, save one point for each team.
The Falcons just couldn’t get their shots to fall and eventually succumbed to Lyon County’s shooting efficiency, rebounding and passing game.
In fact, the game got so frustrating for the Falcons, a technical was called on Robert Dingle, who was put in the game to try to give the Falcons a fresh boost in the fourth.
Lyon County defeated the Falcons, 71-51, with rebounding, passing and the ability to set up shots with a half-court offense.
An obviously frustrated, but calm Cunningham understood this was a test his team needed to get better as the season progresses.
“The story was underneath tonight, I mean, I think they had 14 offensive rebounds at the half and that’s completely unacceptable,” said Cunningham. “We played Union County last week and gave up five offensive rebounds in the whole game.”
Cunningham said his kids had spurts of being hungry and flashes of brilliance.
“We weren’t hungry for the entire game and we have to have a complete game of them getting after it and wanting to win,” he added. “It’s a combination of focus and playing in front of the home crowd for the first time this season.”
“We also just got our football guys back, so we have to get them polished up and get them ready,” added Cunningham. “We’ll get the kinks out soon and we have a pretty deep team, but we have to be hungry and all of us have to contribute the best we can.”
vs. Lyon County
LCHS: 18 24 12 17 – 71
FCHS: 8 19 17 7 – 51