The Syracuse Bulldogs basketball teams and cheerleaders travelled to Goodland on Friday, December 4 to compete in the opening season game against the Goodland Cowgirls and Cowboys at the Max L. Jones Fieldhouse on the Northwest Tech campus.
Walking into the gymnasium was somber - empty seats instead of fans, bleachers still pushed back, and chairs for the players distanced six feet apart. one might think, this is going to be disappointing with no spectators. And while the excitement from fans was lacking, it was evident the team members, cheerleaders, and coaches were there to raise the energy level.
The Junior Varsity teams kicked off the evening. JV coach Amy Norton commented they went up against a fierce Goodland team. “We were able to break their press, but struggled to stop them on defense,” adding, “We had a few good looks on offense, but struggled to get anything going.” Unfortunately, the Lady Bulldogs come up short, 16-44.
JV coach, Tregg Thomeczek was a little nervous, wondering if the team would be excited and ready to play without fans but come game time, “They did not back down.” He and assistant Angel Salmeron both agreed no one player stood out, “They never gave up, and they could have easily been intimidated by the height of the Goodland players,” said Thomeczek. They lost 53-56 at the buzzer, .
Thomeczek feels the boys are quick learners, executing what theylearned in practice. They are coachable and made good shot selections. “The whole team blew me out of the water!” The boys C Team boys won, 55-33, playing four quarters.
Thomeczek is proud to be on the high school boys coaching team. “Wahlmeier is smart. He knows his sports and is great with the kids, and Angel, well I don’t think anyone cares more about kids than him!”
In anticipation of cheering for the varsity teams, cheer coach Kayla Norton felt it was rocky at first, having to work out the kinks, but she thinks they have a good groove now that will help throughout the season. “We know what we need to work on, and these girls are very adaptable because I was throwing changes at them within ten seconds of having to do cheers, and once we got adjusted, it was like they were back into the ‘norm’.”
Senior cheerleader, Ally Corter, felt Friday night’s game seemed just like last year except there was not the extra crowd help with the cheers. She was glad to have the JV boys and girls help cheer on the varsity teams. “They were basically our rowdy crowd.” One difference was the masks they had to wear while together and talking to coach.
Kendra Fyler, head varsity coach commented they played a very talented and tall Goodland team that was hard to match up with. “We came out slow and had a difficult time scoring against their bigger players and they took advantage of their height and found their players inside on post ups and offensive rebounds.” Overall, she felt the game showed what their weaknesses are and what they need to improve on.
The final score was 16-44 and she said, “We are going to have to find ways to defend and box out larger teams since we are smaller in height this year, and we are also a younger team, so we are working on finding team chemistry and learning what it means to play aggressively on defense.” This week, during the County Wars Tournament they will be changing some things that will adapt to their size disadvantage and play into the quickness and aggressive on ball defense.
Head Varsity Coach, Jordan Wahlmeier was incredibly pleased with the boy’s efforts and intensity Friday night. “The boys battled all four quarters and came out with a 59-51 win.” The coaching staff knew going in there would be at a size disadvantage but looking at the stats, “You would not be able to tell,” he said. “We outrebounded them 34-20, that’s a credit to our guys hustle and effort level making an intentional effort to secure every rebound.”
Struggling the first half defending their posts, they adjusted at halftime, shutting them down the rest of the way. “We played fast and tried to get out into transition as much as possible, that’s a tough style of play to maintain for four quarters without turning the ball over,” He knows they may play a little too fast at times, which resulted in turnovers, so he feels they need to tighten the screws when it comes to ball security.
They will also be working on game situations, for example, executing their late game offense, getting the shots they want instead of settling for jump shots. “We had a very balanced game, with four guys having at least 6 rebounds.” Joe Mitchell was the lead individual scorer with 21 points, Austin Plunket, 11, Kyler Keller, Kolbey Brummett, Hugo Leyva each had nine and Leyva took two charges, helping swing the momentum towards the Bulldogs.
Wahlmeier felt the turning point in the game was jumping out to a quick start in the second half. The Bulldogs outscored the Cowboys 20-9 in the third quarter, “and never looked back,” said Wahlmeier, “Sealing the win with our defensive effort, controlling the boards late, and getting stops when it mattered most.”
Defensively they plan to tighten things up, fix some miscommunications and positioning errors, while offensively, looking to get out and run in transition and execute their sets down the stretch.
The Lady Bulldogs C team girls, coached by Norton, felt they had a good matchup against the Goodland C team, playing two quarters. “The leading score jumped between teams about every possession.” She added, “I am very proud of how they played, they executed the offense.” The girls came up two points short in the final seconds with a score of 17-19.
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