Story and photos by Chet Piotrowski Jr.
Charleston coach Cody Drone installed a new wrinkle into the Trojans offense two days ago.
After Monday’s performance, he probably wishes he had installed it sooner.
Because the Trojans dominated St. Thomas More in the second half, busting the game wide open on a 10-0 run en route to a 67-52 victory over the Sabers.
“It’s something that I should’ve done in the beginning of the year, but I did not know this team was going to be so inside-focused,” he said. “I thought we’d have a bunch of guards that could shoot and dribble thinking, ‘Man, we’re going to have to be guard-oriented.’ I know this offense extremely well. We’ve only had two practices with this. So we get a whole week to solidify this, but I would love to put up 70 points on everybody.”
Drone said he was happy with the the second-half performance by his team.
“We played well, that second half for sure,” Drone said. “We played a really solid fourth quarter. We definitely have things to improve on defensively. Fifty-two points. I’m not overly happy with that. Offensively, we looked crisp. That was nice to see. We’ve implemented a couple of new idea, new tactics. We got the ball inside and were able to get a win.”
Jaksen Braun scored 21 points to lead a Trojans offense that included three other players in double-figures – Caleb Oakley with 12, William Applegate with 11, and Grady Smitley with 10.
Smitley directed the new look offense with ease, getting the ball around the court.
“I think we did a good job of moving the ball, getting kickouts, and driving into the paint,” he said. “We knocked down our shots tonight.”
Charleston hit five 3-pointers in the first half – one by Smitley, Applegate and Braun and two by Oakley.
“We’ve been working on closing out and high hands and contesting every shot,” Smitley said. “We could’ve done better on offensive rebounds and limit them, but I think we did pretty good of executing what we wanted to do.”
Drone was happy to see his shooters shine.
“We’ve been working hard,” he said. “It was just a matter of time. These guys are too good of shooters to keep missing. Now, we’ve got a little bit of new offensive look that allows us to get the ball inside. From the inside we’re kicking it to the outside. If we go inside out, we’re so much better shooting. When you can face the hoop to shoot, your shot percentages go up.”
St. Thomas More senior Patrick Quarnstrom, who led the Sabers with 18 point, hit a basket about three minutes into the fourth quarter that cut the Trojans’ lead to 51-41.
Charleston responded by going on a 10-point run buoyed by a shooting foul on Braun and a technical foul on Sabers senior Adonai Bumba.
Braun and Applegate made two free throws apiece, and a fast-break layup by Applegate would put the Trojans ahead by 20 midway through the fourth quarter, 63-43.
Drone has been asking the team to make the extra passes that left St. Thomas More’s defense scrambling.
“We had a lot of unselfish players,” he said. “We had a lot of ‘one more’. We preach ‘one more’ – like what’s my shot to the perimeter. One pass could lead to a better shot. Having the defense rotate and work so maybe that that 3-pointer can lead into a layup. They did a great job of making that defense move tonight. That ball did not stay in one person’s hands long tonight at all.”
One of the successes of the new offense was how the team pushed the ball upcourt.
“We ran the floor exceptionally well tonight,” Drone said. “It’s going to be a new-look offense. We’re going to have our guys running the floor and pressure the rim. Pressuring the rim allows us to get buckets and layups. It allows us to get those kickout threes easier.”
Trojans players cheering and celebrating after the game could be heard in the gym.
“We played great overall,” Smitley said. “I think we just played really hard; we got the dub. We played really good. We played hard. It showed. We go on those little runs and those always helps getting the crowd into it. When that happens, the atmosphere is great and we build off of that. It was really good.”
|St. Thomas More||14||14||11||13||52|
CHARLESTON – Smitley 4 0-0 10, Pankey 1 2-2 4, Applegate 4 2-2 11, Burgess 2 1-3 5, Becker 1 0-0 2, Braun 8 4-4 21, Howell 1 0-0 2, Oakley 2 6-6 12. Totals: 23 15-17 67. 3-pointers: Smitley 2, Applegate 1, Braun 1, Oakley 2.
ST. THOMAS MORE – Staab 2 0-0 4, Quarnstrom 7 3-4 18, Bumba, A. 0 1-2 1, Magrini 2 1-2 7, Hendrickson 2 2-4 6, Okolo 1 2-4 4, Kirby 1 0-0 2, Green 2 0-0 6, Bumba, P. 1 2-5 4. Totals: 18 11-21 52. 3-pointers: Quarnstrom 1, Magrini 2, Green 2.