As the Elsberry Indians kicked off their opening day of the basketball season, fans had to stay on the edge of their seats as
Now labeled as the “Difference Maker,” Kenny Lesley (40) seemed to own the paint as he may not of put 30-points on the board but his 13-rebounds and his ability to alter shots seemed to make all the difference against the Troy Trojans. Pictured: Lesley and Troy Buchanan’s Ben Chaney (24) battle for a jump ball.
they took on the Troy Trojans for a 53-49 victory.
“I thought going into the season we had talent, I just didn’t quite know what to expect,” said Head Coach Ryan Parker. “Troy is a very well coached team, a great team with a lot of history. For us to go in as a seven seed and play the two seed on their home court in their home tournament, hold their leading scorer at zero, speaks volumes about our team.”
Parker said their main objective was not to hold Ben Chaney, Forward for the Trojans, at zero but rather keep him from hitting the 20 point mark. For not playing Troy for approximately 30-years, Parker said he is extremely proud of how well his team did.
“I told the guys before the game, that there is about 20 people in the entire world that actually thought we could beat Troy and 15 of them were fellow players and two coaches,” said Parker. “Having known what we were going up against, I can’t say I blame the other thousands for thinking that.”
Although he said he was a little flustered at the turnover rate, Parker said it was to be expected when playing a team such as Troy. However, he went on to say having players such as Rahiem Porter, Charles Fraction and Kenny Lesley also made a big difference in the turnout of the game.
“Some of our turnovers, like from Porter, weren’t from necessarily handling the ball. Some of it was from throwing bad passes. Having said that, I will say I was, and am, extremely proud at how well he handled the pressure at 90-feet and getting the ball to half court,” Parker said. “Same thing with Fraction. Some people thought that some of his shots were bad, which he only shot 50 percent from the field, but two of the biggest shots of the night were from his back-to-back three’s.”
However, the difference maker of the game was that of Kenny Lesley, according to Parker, who went on to say if Lesley isn’t in foul trouble they probably would have won by more than four-points.
“If you think about it, Lesley played the entire first half and we were up by 10. Two early fouls in the third, which forces me to sit him for almost six-seven minutes of that quarter, we end up down by two. I bring him back at the start of the fourth quarter and we’re back up five. Simply, Lesley is a game changer,” Parker said. “He might not have put up 30-points in a game but when he has 12-points and 13-rebounds like he did against Troy and able to alter shots, that’s a difference maker.”
According to Parker, a lot of the issues they struggled with during the Troy game may have been first game jitters. However, his biggest concern currently is getting the team to play more offense and work harder on rebounding.
“We can’t just rely on Lesley to rebound, we have to be able to work that as a team,” said Parker. “Is it nice having Lesley, absolutely, but it isn’t just about one player it is about the team and that’s were we need to pick it up. Some of the players he is expecting to show help in the stats this season are Ethan Pott, Adam Sherrow and Dylan Howard. According to Parker, they have never seen real varsity play but now that they have a taste of what it’s like, he is confident they will steadily get better.
“Like I said we have the talent and even though we are young I believe we have the skills and mind set to do well this season,” said Parker. “Troy was an excellent match up for us and I’m hoping people will see even though we lost some key players last season, we gained others.”
Next up for the Elsberry Indians in the Troy Buchanan Tournament were the Westminster Wildcats on Wednesday, Nov. 28. According to Parker, it should be a different game for them because of the Wildcats size.
“When you have a team full of six-foot-five and six-foot-three players going against a team of five-foot-ten and six-foot players, it makes for a hard game,” said Parker. “Troy was definitely a better match up for us but we will see what happens Wednesday. Could a day off make a difference, it’s possible but we are still a talented team and we are still, as proven, able to pick up some good wins.”
According to Trojan Head Coach Ryan Meyers, the Indians did a good job at coming in and playing their game. However, one game does not and will not depict the rest of the Trojan season.
“Certainly I believe we played a little bit sloppy. In fact I think we ended up with 21 turnovers and I give Elsberry credit, the way they were able to come out and zone us gave us a lot of fits,” said Meyers. “I think we were two of 21 from behind the line and anytime you play a zone and your only going to make 10 percent of your three-point shots, you’re going to have difficulty winning the game.”
Prior to the game Meyer said they knew they were vulnerable going into the season, especially against taller and bigger teams, as they don’t have significant height working in their favor.
“We certainly respected the Indians coming into the game. But this early in the year, really the seeds don’t mean a whole lot,” Meyers said. “The idea that we were the number two seed playing the number seven seed, I mean it’s so early in the year and we had only played one game prior to them. I just told the kids we needed to come out, play our game and I thought we were a little lack lustered in the first half and didn’t play with a lot of energy and they just came out a really put it too us.”
Although Meters said he gives Elsberry Head Coach Ryan Parker and his team credit for a well played game, he said going forward they will pay more attention in not only valuing the ball more but also working on a more offensive game.
“21 turnovers in a game just isn’t going to cut it,” said Meyers. “We need to share the ball more and create more opportunities for teammates instead of just relying on one or two people to make plays.”
Meyers went on to say he believes they can get those issues ironed out and although he is disappointed in their loss, one game will not define their season and their goal is simply to get better going forward and being back to back District Champions, as well as wining five out six Conference Championships, should make it easier for them to begin focusing on those goals.
“I will say this, when I saw that we got down by 10-12 points I did like the way our kids battled back. They found a way to make it a good game, despite having a poor shooting night we were able to get some offensive rebounds and put some points up on the board,” Meyers said. “We showed some heart but there is 32-minutes to a game and we need to learn from this, hopefully play a full game by coming out hard and ending it hard.”