Let’s be realistic.
That’s what first-year Comets head coach Pat Bray is asking as he surveys the 2015-2016 boys varsity basketball season.
His team, which suffered an 80-68 home opener loss Tuesday to North Ridgeville, is young. His has exactly one player — senior Casey McConihe — with varsity experience. And the tough Southwestern Conference can chew up and spit out teams.
“We play in a very tough conference with strong teams like Berea and Avon Lake that can push us around. We can’t let that happen,” Bray told the News-Times, sharing his outlook on the season.
Against the Rangers, there was some chewing and spitting.
The blue and gold stepped out to a 15-9 lead and stayed ahead by six for big chunks of the first half.
The Comets found little room to work in the paint. Yet talent was evident early on as Ryan Glowacki and McConihe picked up big first half numbers. Marshall Busey came out on fire in the third period with nine quick points on his way to a 20-plus night.
“Marshall can shoot and he can take the ball to the hole. Over the summer, my goal was getting him to believe in himself. He can obviously do it, go to the rim,” said Bray. “He finds it easy to shoot the three but didn’t want to go under the basket so we’ve been working on it. I think he showed he can do it against the Rangers.”
Amherst took a brief lead with 2:40 remaining in the third on an Alec Dimacchia bucket, sparking a see-saw battle as the two teams traded baskets.
The Comets entered the final quarter trailing 58-54 but North Ridgeville went on a nine-point tear mid-period and at one point led by 13.
Starting from a Busey trey, Amherst crawled back to claim a short advantage before the Rangers sprang ahead once more. The Comets didn’t score in the final two minutes.
Bray saw resiliency on the court.
“After getting down 13, we didn’t fall over. We came back and took the lead,” he said. “All 10 guys can play but I have to make sure I have the right guys in there at the right times… We had the opportunity to win that game. With 3:50 we had the lead. We just couldn’t hold it. We need to learn to hold it.”
North Ridgeville had hands up the whole night, making it hard to box out. Bray said that’s an area he plans to work in practices.
“We can’t just let teams come in and rebound at will, giving them three or four shots under the rim,” he said. “We have to box out.”
Strength is another area he plans to pressure his boys.
He’s making sure they’re in the weight room at least twice a week. In the past that’s been a goal but players just haven’t gotten to the weights as often as intended, he said.
McConihe has been the leader in the weight room, pushing teammates to work harder and keeping morale high, Bray said.
While McConihe, Glowacki, and Busey stood out against the Rangers, the head coach believes they won’t be at the forefront every game.
He said Comets fans are going to see different players step up and play big each game. “It’s not going to be about one or two players,” he said. “That’s the goal.”
Also expect to see tighter ball-handling.
“I tell them we have to play fast but we have to play in control fast,” Bray said. Down against the Rangers, the Comets were mentally fatigued and that led to turnovers they couldn’t afford.
This Friday, the varsity line-up takes on the Middies at Midview. The Comets travel Tuesday to Berea-Midpark before hosting Olmsted Falls at home next Friday.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Photos by Randy Meyers and Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times Alec Dimacchia of the Comets shoots a three ball over Demario McCall in the boys basketball season opener, which was close until North Ridgeville shot ahead in the final three minutes for a, 80-68 win.