By GENE F. CONARD Kokomo Tribune
---- — For Taylor’s boys basketball team, it was a patiently awaited coming-out party, a restoration of confidence and indisputable proof that patience and just reward are the gems of satisfaction. But for Tri-Central, the mystery continues — wide-open shots available but no response.
Coach Andy Lewman’s Titans snapped a three-game losing streak in a very positive way Saturday night at Center Court with a well-deserved 45-35 victory, sending the Trojans of coach Kyle Zahn down to their second straight loss and third in four outings.
It was not exactly an explosive occasion for either club, Taylor hitting just 14 of 39 shots (.359) and the Trojans meshing just 14 of 45 attempts (.311). But the Titans had two decisive factors going for them — the 21-point, 7-rebound effort of Calvin Wheeler and the 14-point, 8-rebound performance of Latrell Mitchell.
The Trojans had an 8-6 lead at the first stop but were down, 18-17, at the intermission. During this 16-minute stretch Wheeler (10) and Mitchell (6) carried the load, and when it meant the most they combined for 19 of Taylor’s 27 tallies in the second half.
Meanwhile, the Trojans — who hit just 15 of 42 shots in a 38-36 loss to Elwood the previous night — continued their estrangement with the hoop going 3 of 16, 4 of 11, 3 of 7 and 4 of 11 by quarters.
Still, the Trojans had their chances, drawing within 31-27 in the third period and 35-31 and 39-35 in the final segment. But when opportunity arrived there were costly personal fouls, turnovers and yes, shots that never found the hoop.
A pleased Lewman remarked afterward: “We were much more composed [Saturday], and we made TC do things they didn’t want to do. I thought we did a good job controlling the tempo, stopping their penetration by closing the gaps and defending very well.
“Wheeler and Mitchell both played extremely well and executed what we set up. Our plan going in was to be patient and make them guard us. But we want the ball in Wheeler’s hands as much as possible because he can do so many things,” referring to the senior veteran’s ablility to penetrate, find his teammates and take opponents off the dribble.
“I have a great group of kids who give us total effort every time out, and that makes the difference,” he finished.
Zahn was at a loss of words to explain his Trojans’ shooting dilemma that has seen them hit just 29 shots in 87 attempts (.333) in their last two outings.
“It’s been a bad weekend, and it all comes down to poor shooting,” he began. “It’s hard to understand because we shoot very well in practice, and all of a sudden we can’t hit in games.
“But we were too eager to shoot outside jumpers in the first half [7 of 27] but did a good job of reversing the ball in the second half and shot a little better [7 of 18]. It’s something when your defense holds a team to 45 points and you can’t win. But again, we gave away too many second chances.”