High School Basketball

Falcons peaking at right time once again

By Dennis Silva II, Sports Editor
Posted 1/29/21

For the second straight year, Tompkins’ boys basketball team is starting to peak at the right time of the season.

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High School Basketball

Falcons peaking at right time once again

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For the second straight year, Tompkins’ boys basketball team is starting to peak at the right time of the season.

Last season, the Falcons won 12 of their final 21 games to rally from a 5-12 start, finish third in district play, and continue the inspiring run all the way to the regional quarterfinals.

This year is a bit of déjà vu.

Tompkins has won five straight games to overcome a 5-9 start, the latest an impressive 71-62 win over Mayde Creek on Friday, Jan. 29, at home. The win exacted revenge for a 75-71 Rams win in the teams’ first district meeting on Jan. 5, snapped Mayde Creek’s three-game win streak, and flipped Tompkins over Mayde Creek for third in District 19-6A with a week left in the district season.

“It’s not an excuse, but the reality of it is this year’s team doesn’t have any experience on varsity except for (junior guard) BB (Knight),” Tompkins coach Bobby Sanders said. “It’s 11 first-time varsity guys, so it’s taken us 10 games to get our rotation where it should be. Usually where we figure that out is during tournament season, but we didn’t have that this year (because of COVID-19 restrictions). So, the first round of district, we were still getting used to who should be playing at what time.”

In 19-6A, Seven Lakes is in first at 8-2. Taylor is a game back in second place at 7-3. Tompkins is third at 6-4, followed by Mayde Creek (a half-game back at 6-5) and Katy (5-5).

At one point, Tompkins was 1-4 in district play.

“Our energy is better, we’re more locked in,” said Knight, who tied freshman teammate Luke Coughran for team-high scoring honors with 18 points. “Playoffs are coming up, so we’re more focused on our end goal.”

It was the rookie Coughran who got the Falcons off to a hot start. Tompkins led 10-3 early as Coughran scored 10 points in the first quarter, including a couple of 3s.

“I just want to win,” Coughran said. “We have shooters on the court, but if I can score, I’ll do what I can to score. They were slacking off me a bit and I had to take my shots.”

The Falcons led by 10 points after the first quarter, and then Knight assumed some control with a five-point second quarter.

The two combined for 22 of Tompkins’ 34 first-half points, drilling four of nine 3-pointers.

“Luke started us off shooting it like he did,” Sanders said. “Then he starts handing it off to BB, and BB kind of took over. It’s good to have two ‘Splash Brothers’ out there.”

The third quarter was a scary one, however, for Tompkins, as Mayde Creek ferociously staged a comeback.

The Rams outscored the Falcons, 22-14, in the period, forcing eight turnovers as Tompkins could not solve Mayde Creek’s relentless fullcourt press. At one point, Tompkins turned it over on four consecutive possessions.

Mayde Creek produced easy buckets off its takeaways, thanks in large part to senior guard Jermon Washington, who scored 15 of his game-high 28 points in the third. Going into the fourth quarter, Mayde Creek had trimmed a 14-point third-quarter deficit to three, 48-45.

“It was nothing fancy, we knew it was coming,” Sanders said of the Rams’ press. “We just didn’t do what we were supposed to do for about six minutes. Finally, we relaxed a bit. We started running our press-break instead of just throwing the ball all over the place, and once we did that, we started getting layups.”

Indeed, Sanders added a couple of wrinkles to the break, including a cross-screen by Coughran in an attempt to free himself and another ballhandler, and the Falcons regained control in the fourth quarter.

The Rams missed their first six 3-point attempts in the period, allowing the Falcons to build their lead back up to 12.

“We handled pressure better, we didn’t turn the ball over,” Knight said. “We made safe passes. In the third quarter, we were rushing and forcing things. In the fourth quarter, we settled down, focused and got the win.”

Knight finished with 18 points and five rebounds. Coughran had 18 points and seven rebounds. Junior forward Joel Oluokun added 15 points, eight rebounds and two blocks. Guard Nick Lancit added 10 points and seven rebounds.

Senior guard Josh Vanegas added 11 points for Mayde Creek. Sophomore guard Angel Sonnier finished with eight.

Over the five-game win streak, Tompkins is allowing just 51.2 points per game, adding size and athleticism over the past few weeks with junior forward Sean DuBose Jr. coming over from the football team, and the arrival of senior newcomer KJ Nakaya.

With Oluokun, DuBose and Nakaya combining for six blocks up front, Mayde Creek had trouble getting anything at the rim, scoring as many 3-point baskets (11) as two-point baskets. Mayde Creek misfired on 22 of its 33 3-point attempts and lost the battle on the glass, 46-20.

“Mainly, I was pleased with our defense,” Sanders said. “It’s gotten gradually better over the last five games. We’re stopping the ball better, getting into a stance and just trying really hard. It was a grimy effort tonight.”

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