December 27, 2013 11:53:18 AM
Adam Minichino - email@example.com
STARKVILLE -- One coach hopes to help his team find an ingredient that will propel it to greater heights in 2014.
Another coach plans to use his team's three-game stint against Mississippi teams as a bonding exercise that will help his squad come together for the stretch run.
How well New Hope boys basketball coach Drew McBrayer and Lausanne Collegiate School coach Kenneth White fare in each of their pursuits remains to be seen. On Thursday, White and the Lynx from Memphis, Tenn., took a bigger step toward their goal with a 69-52 victory against New Hope in the first game of the Travis Outlaw Slam Dunk at The Hump.
Junior Marc Crawford paced Lausanne (5-3) with 26 points, while freshmen Isaiah Stokes and James Babb added 12 and 11 points, respectively. The Lynx used a 20-6 run in the final 6 minutes, 20 seconds after the Trojans (5-4) had cut the deficit to three points.
Lausanne turned up the defensive intensity in the fourth quarter to make the final push. White said the team is still trying to find itself after losing four seniors from last season's team. He said Crawford excels in an up-tempo game, while Stokes (6-foot-7) and Babb (6-6) give the Lynx a two-head inside presence when they try to slow the tempo and work their half-court offense.
Against New Hope, Crawford shined the brightest with a variety of twisting moves around the basket that helped him finish with a career-high.
"We want to get out and run," White said. "That kind of has been a staple of ours. We have been here for five years, and we want to get out in transition and push when we can but still have the discipline to run some half-court sets and take advantage of our size on the inside when we need to.
"(Marc) did a real good job today. We have kind of been seeing that potential from him all year long. Today was really the first day he has really tapped into (that potential). Hopefully, this will be what he needs to get going for the rest of the year. For us to go very far, he needs to play very well for us."
Stokes, whose brother, Jarnell, plays at Tennessee, wears a size 22 shoe. Despite his youth and size, Stokes showed polish with his footwork and his shooting touch. His 3-pointer with 41.1 seconds to go in the third quarter was a key basket because it helped hold off New Hope, which had cut the deficit to 44-43.
"He is very skilled," White said. "He has got a good pedigree. He is able to step out on the perimeter and do a few things and he has good footwork in the post. As long as we can keep him out of foul trouble, he should be pretty big for us the rest of the way."
With pieces like that, including a steady point guard, Jesse Neloms, who also is a freshman, White wants to use remaining games against Starkville and Aberdeen this weekend to build chemistry for a playoff run.
"These guys really don't know each other all that well because it is a brand new team and we have a lot of new faces," White said. "The more opportunities we can get to bond together, hopefully that will pay off down the road."
McBrayer also hopes games against out-of-state competition will help mold his team into shape. Unfortunately, he felt his team missed an opportunity after it fell behind by nine points in the first quarter and then stayed close throughout the second and third quarters but could only claim the lead once (15-14 at the end of the first quarter) and tie the score five times.
Lausanne had two steals and New Hope committed another turnover down the stretch as a 49-46 lead ballooned to a 63-50 cushion with 2:29 to play.
"It kinda got away from us," McBrayer said. "It was a lack of execution on both ends of the floor. We are just not tough enough."
Crawford hit a 3-pointer after Terryonte Thomas (12 points) hit a free throw to cut the deficit to 49-46 to kick the advantage to 52-46. A New Hope turnover led to a layup by Spencer Mackey that forced McBrayer to call timeout with 5:39 to go.
Whyatt Foster's layup off a pass from Thomas cut the margin back to six, but Lausanne used a 6-0 spurt to build the advantage it held the rest of the way.
McBrayer said the Trojans have to find a way to respond and hold their composure when a team make a run. He felt their still was plenty of time for New Hope to counter with a run, but he didn't see the spark he needed from his players.
"In the matter of 30 seconds we went from being slap in the middle of the ballgame to oh my God, what do we do now?" McBrayer said. "That is the mental toughness we talked about the other night (following a loss to Columbus in the Joe Horne Columbus Christmas Classic. Sometimes it is mind-boggling to see things like that happen. ... It is like the air went out of them and they were completely devastated and did not think they could win the ballgame. You could see it on their face and in their eyes."
McBrayer also lamented an offensive foul that went against junior point guard Jaylon Bardley (nine points). Bardley made the basket and then absorbed contact with 0.4 seconds remaining and New Hope trailing 47-43 only to be called for a foul. On the possession prior to that, Toddy Jennings had a nifty spin move on the post, but he wasn't able to finish the play. Those what-ifs left McBrayer wondering how many times his players will face tight games before they will answer with the toughness he wants to see.
"We get it done in practice, but now it is translating it to the ballgame is where we have to progress," McBrayer said. "They want to speed up when they get down instead of slowing down and executing. They have to learn how to do that."
Shermar Johnson paced New Hope with 13 points, while Foster added six.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.