By David Pan 

Mavericks need younger players to execute at high level | Boys basketball


Last updated 12/6/2018 at Noon

The Meadowdale boys basketball team’s first two games of the season resulted in two losses.

The Mavericks dropped their season opener 72-62 to Burlington-Edison and then fell 85-54 to Mariner in back-to-back nonconference action last week.

Even though Meadowdale coach Roger O’Neill didn’t like the results he saw on the scoreboard, he appreciated being able to see his team at work.

“I’m thankful that they exposed us early rather maybe if we’d played lesser competition and we were feeling good about ourselves,” O’Neill said. “It’s not like I had to convince them (players) that we have a lot to work on.”

Meadowdale returns only one full-time starter in junior Colton Walsh. Seniors Haben Tekle, Nick Buckley and Ray Free all had varying roles coming off the bench last season.

“We have talented basketball players, but we’re inexperienced in terms of varsity minutes,” O’Neill said. “Obviously, we graduated seven guys last year. There’s a lot of minutes to fill. … Colton is the only guy back in pretty much the same role.”

Meadowdale’s struggles during the first week of games weren’t a surprise to Free. But he agrees with O’Neill about the Mavericks’ potential.

“A lot of our players on our varsity team are coming from JV. It’s going to take a little bit to get in the swing of varsity and play on the varsity level,” Free said. “We’re probably going to have a slow start. But once we get back into the varsity game play, then we’re going to be a great team I feel like.”

Tekle sensed a renewed resolve at the team’s first practice after its first two games.

“It’s just going to take some hard work,” Tekle said. “Today, we put in that work. We actually starting working hard and put our minds to it. It’s a new team. It’s a young team.”

The Mavericks will be relying on Walsh, Tekle, Buckley and junior Hunter Moen for offense. O’Neill expects the leading scorer might be a different player every night.

Walsh led the Mavericks with 13 points against Burlington-Edison and Buckley scored a team-high 16 points against Mariner. Walsh then scored 24 points and Tekle added 14 to lead the Mavericks to a 57-52 victory over Squalicum in a nonconference game Saturday, Dec. 1, at Meadowdale High School.

“We’ve got some interchangeable pieces, a lot of guys that want to do the right thing,” O’Neill said. “If we play offense the way we want to, the ball is going to move and it’s going to find the open guy.”

Tekle expects the Mavericks’ outside game to be a key part of the offense.

“We have very experienced 3-point shooters,” Tekle said. “Last year’s JV used to shoot the lights out every night. On varsity, we had some good shooters. Now putting them together, we should be able to shoot 3s and get the ball in the hoop.”

On defense, Meadowdale hopes to take advantage of its speed and athleticism.

“I feel like last year we were a trapping team,” Tekle said. “If we bring that to our team, we’re capable of being fast and getting the steals.”

Meadowdale has enough height and length to be a solid rebounding team, which in turn will help spark the offense.

“We think we can be a good rebounding team, which is going to let us run,” O’Neill said. “We can string some stops together and go out and run in space.”

The coaching staff’s early message revolves around mental focus.

“Our whole message the last couple of days has been on the moment to moment focus that you need to have on varsity,” O’Neill said. “We had a heck of a JV team. It’s all the same guys. They’re talented basketball players. There are things you can get away at the JV level. People make you pay at the varsity level for small mistakes. … It really comes down to having concentration for 32 minutes because I think we have enough talent on this team to be pretty dang good.”

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