Aaron Colen, Sports Editor, Aaron.Colen@chickashanews.com
The Chickasha High School boys basketball team looks a lot different this year than the last. In the Fightin’ Chicks’ first two games Friday and Saturday, it was apparent that the squad would go through some growing pains this season, as head coach Bryan Merritt is well-aware.
“From last year’s team we lost Austin McRay, Al Wolf, Olajuwon [Davis], Jacobi [Davis], and when you add T.J. and Montana, you’re talking about six of our guys who were suiting up, gone,” Merritt said. “It’s a lot more being asked of a lot of different kids that aren’t used to that role.”
Merritt was referring to the injuries to Montana Moon and T.J. Filer, who both had surgery Friday and will likely miss the entire season. Moon was going to be a starter, and Filer would have seen significant minutes as a reserve forward.
Moon broke his foot during a preseason scrimmage against Altus, and Filer injured his shoulder during football season.
That leaves the Chickasha boys with four players: point guard E.J. Golightly, center Joey Sylvester, and guard/forwards Datius Dufur and Dakota Goombi who will often be asked to play entire games without sitting.
Chickasha had mixed results in their first two games. Friday, the Fightin’ Chicks struggled defensively in a 71-65 loss to the Noble Bears.
Golightly scored 24 points in the game, and Sylvester scored 23, but the Chicks had a brutal stretch of turnovers in the third quarter, turning the ball over on six out of seven possessions at one point.
Still only down by three points after three quarters, Chickasha couldn’t get the stops it needed and went down by double digits before losing by five.
“We weren’t getting stops. What we’ve always done since I’ve been here is get back in defensive transition and we play pretty good defense,” Merritt said. “Tonight we were just out there in a shooting match, not playing any defense hardly at all, not matched up.”
Merritt said that at times his team was out of position offensively, in situations where all the players on the floor didn’t know the plays.
“That just put us in to having a lot of other guys play a lot bigger roles than we anticipated,” Merritt said. “A couple times tonight we weren’t even matched up, knowing who we’re guarding, and we couldn’t even get organized well on that. A lot of other times we’d try to run something and maybe three guys would know what it was, two guys wouldn’t know where to line up on that.”
Chickasha didn’t have much time to dwell on Friday’s loss, with a home game against Elgin coming the very next day. And Saturday, the Chicks looked like a much-improved group, even though they were playing an Owls team that had a new coach and lost a lot of talent from last season.
The Fightin’ Chicks scored the first 16 points of the game, not allowing a single Elgin basket until 2:52 left in the first quarter, and Elgin never came back from that opening run, losing 60-31.
Chickasha had much more balanced scoring in the second game, with three players in double figures. Sylvester led the way with 15 points, Golightly scored 14 points, and Goombi scored 13 points. Dufur added eight points.
“What I was happy about with our team, is we came out and acted like we wanted to win,” Merritt said of the Elgin game. “Actually playing hard. A lot of these guys haven’t figured out that you actually have to run hard up and down the court, play defense, and you’ve got to be competitive. Last night I didn’t feel like we played hard.”
The boys are off all this week, and don’t play again until Dec. 11 when they go to Western Heights. Merritt said conditioning will be the focus of the week’s practices.
“Next week we don’t play, and we’re going to be running all the time,” Merritt said. “We definitely have not conditioned enough to play as little amount of guys we are, so yeah, that’s what we’ll be doing. Working on stopping dribble drives to the paint, and conditioning.”