Updated Sat, Jan 7, 2012 12:55 am
No team wishes for defeat, but when defeat comes all a team can wish for is to be graceful in defeat. The Alexander Spartans were on the brink of finishing Friday night’s contest with Vinton County with nothing to be proud of. However, the 67-44 final score doesn’t tell the story of the basketball game.
There is no question, Vinton County had the upper hand in this matchup. With tremendous size and high basketball IQ, the Vikings broke out to an early lead and continued to punish the Spartans for the duration of the contest. This loss dropped Alexander to 2-7. It’s safe to say it’s not exactly what they had in mind to start the season, but head coach Blaine Gabriel says morale is still high.
"We still think we can compete for the league,” said Gabriel, “and if not we’ll certainly dictate who does.”
Alexander’s Braden Jones helped orchestrate a late fourth quarter try at a comeback even with four fouls. The Spartans brought in a full-court press and forced Vinton County into a few turnovers, but Alexander could only manage to get the lead down to 14. Jones hit many late buckets and found some open looks, but clearly not enough to push Alexander over the top. Jones finished with 26 points.
Jones’ performance was a bright spot in the Spartans’ performance Friday. Reminiscent of an Independence Day box of sparklers, Alexander showed flash for short bursts, but the excitement quickly died down.
Alexander started the fourth quarter with a 6-2 run, but the fact that the team was down 21 coming into that quarter. That seemed to be the story of the night. Any flash of excellence the Spartans showed was blotted out by Vinton County’s immense lead.
Perhaps if Jones had as much success in the first half as he did in the second, Alexander could have stayed in this ball game more than a few minutes. 18 of his 26 points came in the second half.
“We’ve got to get him going early,” said Gabriel. “We saw in the second half what he can do. He’s pretty athletic. We’ve got to have him all four quarters.”
Alexander could use the rest of its team for four quarters as well. Once again, flashes of greatness came out only to die later on. After a measly six points in the first quarter, the Spartans followed up with 14 and 13 points in the second and third quarters respectively. It didn’t help that they didn’t sink a single three-point basket as compared to Vinton County’s eight.
As they approach the middle of the season, the Spartans will continue to work. Gabriel says the main focus heading into their next game against Nelsonville-York is rebounding. Vinton County outrebounded Alexander 28-20.
“If we can rebound with them, we can play with them,” said Gabriel.
The Spartans will need to wrestle down rebounds and pour in the points when they head to Nelsonville to take on the Buckeyes Tuesday night. With a win Tuesday, Alexander can stave off the “spoiler” label a bit longer.