Before any buzzer sounded or sneakers squeaked the floor everyone felt immense despair in their hearts. Darius Shackleford a terrific three sport athlete from Newark High School was tragically taken from us in the past weeks. The weight of his loss was certainly felt in Jimmy Allen Gym on Saturday February 13th. R.I.P. Shack – fly high & ball out up there !
After a touching tribute to Shackleford (Freshman D1 Youngstown State WR) the teams laced up and tipped off to begin the contest. Newark got off to a rapid start thanks in part to #20 Drew Ballinger. Their early lead from the get-go set the tone for the entire ballgame.
#20 for Newark really stood out during the entire contest. He consistently activated his hands into the passing lanes, drove the ball with a powerful first step and plucked difficult rebounds in traffic. It is clear that his abilities are accentuated within Coach Jeff Quackenbush’s disciplined program.
As the first quarter went on both teams struggled to finish or find the open man in transition. Most of the time, each team would try to take it coast to coast and finish 1v1 in transition.
Nothing wrong with that – except when you have a trailing teammate that could easily lay it up if you turn – seal off your defender and find the open man. In these instances, many players shout “Trailer!” to alert their teammates of an easy lane for an open court basket.
High Entertainment Value
Either way, both teams got up and down the court with excellent pace. There was a two minute volley that took place for about 4 possessions each with 4 minutes remaining in the second quarter that was quite entertaining. By volley, I mean each team traded consecutive transition opportunities without settling down in the halfcourt.
Every basketball game is defined by certain plays that can spark energy for the entire unit – team, coaches and fans. We will call it the “Fresh Play of the Day.”
That play that shut down any chance of a Heath surge came in the waning moments of the 2nd quarter. Heath drove to the bucket and was stopped on the block by a Newark defender.
Heath player tried to finish through contact and #20 Ballinger came flying over to scrape the ball out of mid air, cradle it and dish it to maintain possession. Outstanding.
Ballinger came to ball out this evening and it was evident – he tallied nearly half of the Wildcats points as they led 35-18 at half.
As the second half began, Heath standout #30 Nick Lamar made himself much more assertive for his squad. His sweet handles always got him by the first defender but he struggled to make anything happen past that point. In the 3rd quarter, he came out and made 2 out of his first 3 attempts and then Coach Devin Fulk put him on the bench.
One glaring improvement I noticed is that each team could use to follow their own shot.
Coach Jeff Quackenbush let his big man #35 Elijah Hinton go to work down the stretch. He contributed a great deal of clean up work on the glass and exhibits springboard bounce on his turnaround post moves.
Hinton’s excellent communication on Defense + great second jump truly separate him from his counterparts and allow him to recover quickly on both ends of the floor.
Playing on Full Tilt
Both of these teams played tough and had players willing to sacrifice their body at all moments of the game. I believe the true difference in this game came down to Coaching. Newark took at least three charges throughout the ball game and were much more scrappy on the defensive end. They wanted this game more and it showed as they earned a 66-46 victory.