When the American Studies boys basketball team arrived for their first home game of the season, there was still some lingering bitterness among the Senators left over from a deflating three-point loss at Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy a few days earlier.
What the Senators needed was an outlet for their anger. Something to take their frustrations out on. And unfortunately for the Marie Curie School for Medicine, Nursing and Health Professions, they were that something.
After sleepwalking their way through the game’s early minutes and falling behind by five points, the Senators snapped out of their slumber and things quickly went code red for Marie Curie.
American Studies embarked on a 13-0 run to close out the first quarter, and a 37-6 overall spurt into halftime before coasting to a 66-41 victory.
“We were definitely excited to get back on the court and rebound from a really tough loss,” said senior Troy McLean, who led four Senators in double figures with 17 points. “Everyone was pretty (peeved), but we rebounded nicely. We got back to what we do best and just took care of business.”
American Studies was slow to start and fell into a 9-4 hole in the first three minutes. But a jumper by David Tinsley ignited the 13-0 run, capped by a McLean three-pointer just before the end of the first quarter as the Senators took a 17-9 lead.
Things got no better for Marie Curie as the Senators continued their onslaught and scored the first eight points of the second quarter, building a 25-9 advantage. And by the time Damon Lawrence Jr., was wrapping up his own personal eight-point spurt in the final minutes of the first half, the Senators’ lead ballooned to 41-15, and Marie Curie could have warmed up the buses for the ride home.
Lawrence finished with 15 points, Tinsley added 10 points with 11 rebounds, and Leo Deener logged a double-double of his own with 12 points and 14 rebounds. A sort of pick-your-poison attack by the Senators.
“That’s what we would hope for, that other guys would be able to get comfortable, and that’s what we were able to do in this game,” McLean said. “It was a lot easier in this game for the guys to get going. We’re looking to improve our chemistry, and when that happens, we’ll be doing even better.”
American Studies’ head coach Michael Hamlett was pleased to see more balance to his team instead of the one-man show McLean turned in with his 37-point performance in the loss to RKA.
“You can’t win with one guy scoring 37,” Hamlett said. “You’re not going to win against good teams with one guy dominating the ball. Today was what we went over in practice: sharing the ball, running in transition, and just finding the open guy.”
No one was better at sharing the ball than Lawrence, who posted 10 assists in the victory.
But it was the play of Deener, the 6-foot-7 junior, that had both McLean and Hamlett excited about the possibilities for this season.
“He could make a huge difference,” McLean said. “He’s a big body in the paint. He has a good touch and can finish around the rim. That will make all the difference against the better teams where you need a big option. Not only that, but his rebounding and defense will be a huge help. He’s a huge plus on the court and it’s great to have him.”
“He is the X factor,” Hamlett said. “If he can bring us 20 (points) and 10 (rebounds) a night, we can go far. We’ll be able to compete with a lot of the very good teams. Six-foot-7 you just can’t teach.”
The victory upped the Senators record to 2-1, but Hamlett already has seen a major difference in this year’s team compared to last year’s outfit.
“These guys love to play man-to-man” defense, Hamlett said. “What’s also different is that they all like each other in the sense that they all play for each other. I’m not saying last year’s team didn’t like each other, but this year’s team, after practice, they all stay together and go through more drills.
“That’s something I didn’t see at all last year. And they also love a challenge.”
Which is a good thing with defending division champ Tuitt Campus up next Dec. 4.
“This is my sixth year here and we’ve only won once at Tuitt,” Hamlett said. “So it’s going to be a huge game. Definitely a barometer of where we’re at as a team.”