JASON CHLAPEK I PCE Coldspring-Oakhurst guard Duke Lawniczak (with ball) puts up a shot in traffic against a host of Shepherd defenders.
By JASON CHLAPEK
COLDSPRING — It was nothing new for the Coldspring-Oakhurst and Shepherd boys basketball teams when they faced each other last week in Coldspring.
The Pirates operated out of a half-court set and got the ball inside to 6-foot-11 post Bradley Davis, while the Trojans ran and pressed. In the end, Coldspring’s full-court press proved to be too much for Shepherd as the Trojans forced 42 turnovers, including 33 steals, to run past the Pirates, 73-51, on Dec. 1.
“We always press,” Coldspring coach Greg Devers said. “That’s our thing since we’ve always been here. Two years ago, we averaged about 99 points a game in district. Last year in the state semifinal, we pressed the No. 1 team in the state (Dallas Madison). That’s our bread and butter. We don’t like to get in a half-court game. We like to play up-tempo and take as many shots as we can.”
Shepherd coach Jeremy Bennett knew what to expect as well. He also said last week’s game wasn’t the first time his team saw the full-court press.
“They’ve been pressing since forever and it’s nothing we haven’t seen,” Bennett said. “Every team we’ve seen has pressed us.”
The presence of Davis is one of the main reasons why teams press the Pirates. Nonetheless, the senior post still recorded a triple-double — 24 points, 13 rebounds, 10 blocks.
The main culprit for Shepherd’s turnovers may not have been Coldspring’s full-court press, however. It may have been the absence of point guard Trey Stacey.
“One thing that hurt us is we didn’t have our starting point guard,” Bennett said. “That hurt us with turnovers. He was in close contact with someone who tested positive. Trase Thiessen has handled the ball for us. It hurt a lot not having him. We got after them, but not having our full roster hurt us. I’d love to play them again with my full roster. It might be a different story.”
The Pirates led once in the contest, 13-12, late in the first quarter. But the Trojans closed out the quarter on a 6-2 run, which included a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Luke Monroe, to take an 18-15 lead after one frame of play.
Monroe’s 3-pointer was the start of a 13-0 run for Coldspring (4-0), who built a 28-15 lead that would not be relinquished. The Trojans led 34-23 at the half and 54-41 after three quarters.
Duke Lawniczak led all scorers with 37 points for Coldspring. Cameron Shaw-Rucker had a double-double with 11 points and 10 steals to go with seven assists, while Dante Eldridge chipped in with 11 points and nine rebounds.
“Practice makes perfect and I watch Trae Young a lot and the way he flicks his wrist,” Lawniczak said. “Just pray that it goes in. I like to go in the paint, but I like to take the shot when I feel like I have it. We need to play with the same energy. We’ve won district every year since I was a freshman. We haven’t lost a game in district and I pray that we can do it again.”
Shepherd (5-2) also received 8 points and 10 rebounds from Dillen Johnson. Carlos Renovato and Christian Castillo also contributed with 8 and 7 points, respectively.
The Pirates bounced back from their loss at Coldspring with a 56-40 victory at Madisonville last Saturday. Davis led the way with 22 points and 15 rebounds, while Johnson and Renovato had 13 and 10 points, respectively.
Prior to last week’s loss, Shepherd’s only other defeat was a 64-53 setback at the hands of Class 5A Kingwood Park. The Pirates also have victories against defending 2A state champion Shelbyville; 5A teams Montgomery and Cleveland; and fellow 4A West Orange-Stark.
Coldspring followed up its double-digit win with a pair of nail biting victories against 4A programs Bridge City and Orangefield last week. The Trojans defeated BC, 65-59, last Thursday and edged Orangefield, 64-62, last Saturday.
In the win against BC, Lawniczak led with 28 points, while Eldridge recorded a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Statistics were not available from the win at Orangefield.
“This is my sixth year at Coldspring,” Devers said. “I like to press — 32 minutes of full-court pressing. We pressed when I was at Manvel and Stafford. I learned it from Earl Berry at Channelview. There was a year where we scored 100 points 14 times in a season.”
After qualifying for the state tournament a year ago, the Trojans seem to be in reloading mode as opposed to rebuilding.
“Our record the last two years is 71-9 and my junior varsity’s record is 40-3,” Devers said. “I have four returnees — all four of them start. I also have three move-ins that have helped us out as well. I have 11 guys who I can put on the court and they’re going to give 120 percent.”
The biggest obstacle isn’t an opponent on Coldspring’s schedule, according to Devers, who’s team hosts 2A No. 1 Martins Mill at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. It’s Covid-19.
“Our schedule changes every day and every time I receive a phone call from a coach, I think he’s going to cancel,” Devers said. “Anytime an administrator comes into my classroom, I think one of my players has Covid. We’re playing it day-by-day right now.”