PARRISH — Gameday is the event that every team prepares, plans and practices for — regardless of the sport that the program is participating in.
Success is often not only measured by a victory in the contest, but also how the team performs, executes and carries out its assignments. Failures occur when a team falls short of their expected level of play and even occur in a victory, as well as a loss.
For the sixth-ranked Parrish Tornadoes, success is attainable when their offense and defense play to its greatest potential.
Six games into the 2012-13 season, the Tornadoes’ defense has not only performed well, but has also shown weekly improvement — holding opponents to 40 points per game. Offensively, the Parrish coaching staff is in search of more cohesion and better execution, with the team only scoring 60 points or more through the first six games.
Next up for Parrish in the third game of their four-game “gauntlet” week was the Berry Wildcats, who approached the contest with a 1-2 record. Led by Terrance “Tank” Hollingsworth, a powerful 5-9, 205-pound guard and Blake Abernathy, an accurate forward, the Wildcats have proven to be competitive even in their two losses — a trait that shows both the Tornadoes’ coaching staff and players that Berry should not be underestimated.
The Pregame: Last-minute planning and focus
The time period before the Tornadoes take to the hardwood began quietly, with the team’s locker room eerily calm and empty except for the presence of coach Heath Burns, who is often at work on last-minute strategic planning, as well as the coaching staff who were busy preparing for the game.
While the players’ uniforms were carefully hung up in their lockers, watercoolers were filled and practice balls were set out on movable racks for the team to use during pre-game warmups — a steady, methodical operation observed during every home game.
In the gymnasium, the players were enjoying watching the Tornado girls’ matchup against their Wildcat opponents — cheering on their ladies’ play while also providing words of encouragement. Shortly after halftime, preparation time began as the boys depart to their locker room in anticipation of their own clash with Berry.
Some team members have their own pre-game rituals they observe in the moments before tip-off. Junior Tyler Sims read through his Bible, spending a few moments of reflection before praying quietly. Several lockers down, senior Brodrick Sanders, senior Desmond Brown and junior Barry Hill had an animated and jovial discussion on a number of topics, erupting into fits of laughter as the three enjoyed each others’ company.
In the adjoining room, Burns met with his coaching staff — Dennis “Chi-Chi” Woods, Bubba Cagle, Murray Bondman and Donnie Morgan on the night’s game plan, including the assignment of each one of their players and the sets that would be used on both offense and defense. Matchups with Hollingsworth and Abernathy were assigned, as well as any late-breaking issues that might appear during the game.
At the conclusion of the coaches’ meeting, Burns and his staff returned to the locker room to relay the changes, strategy and assignments to the players.
Questions were answered that were brought up by the team and Burns took the time to test each player to ensure they understand their role in the game.
Seconds later, the team gathered together for a pre-game prayer and crowd into the hallway to make the entrance into the gymnasium.
Gametime: Into the heart of the battle
The home crowd roared in appreciation as their Tornadoes took the court — smiling at the welcome they have received and begun their pre-game drills.
Burns and his team captain for the night, Jermichael Harris, met the referees and with Berry coach Danny Raines and Hollingsworth briefly for official instructions before player introductions were made over the intercom.
Bumping fists and greeting their opponents while getting ready for the opening tip, the Tornadoes were ready to go to work.
The first period proved to be one of good execution for Parrish on offense and defense.
With Marcus, Jermichael and Reginald Harris grabbing multiple steals and Sanders and Brown picking up rebounds, the Tornadoes established a 18-6 lead.
The Wildcats begun to build some offensive momentum of their own in the second period, with Burns calling out defensive plays to stimy Berry’s surge and redirect his team’s efforts.
Despite an offense spark by the Wildcats, little seem to stop Parrish’s offense — with Sims and Jermichael Harris accumulating 9 points in the first half.
The Tornadoes outscored Berry 22-15 in the second period to take a 40-21 edge into the locker room at halftime.
Inside the locker room, Burns assessed his team’s first half play, congratulating team members who performed well, while giving instructions to his players who are struggled.
Hollingsworth has led Berry in scoring, leading Burns to strengthen his team’s understanding of the defensive plan of how to combat the powerful guard.
Also addressed wss the squad’s continued problems in making layups — with 12 thusfar in the game not finding the basket.
“This game is not over. We may be up by 19 points, but we have just given up 21 in two periods and that’s something we don’t do,” Burns told his players.
“Let’s get after the ball harder on defense, know your assignments and do what we’re supposed to do. It’s real easy to get lazy when you’re up by 19, but let’s get out there and fight from the start to the final horn.”
Though the Wildcats’ offense continued to score through the third period, the Tornadoes defense forced key turnovers which were turned into points.
Outscoring Berry 16-13 in the third period, Parrish extended their lead to 56-34.
The fourth period saw Berry finally outscore Parrish, 15-14, though the Tornadoes had found a hot-handed shooter through the second half that would lead them in scoring for the night. While the Wildcats would often double-team Jermichael Harris, Brown and Sims, Parrish would pass the ball to Reginald Harris, who recorded a 21-point night in a key contribution for the Tornadoes’ 70-49 victory.
As the final horn sounded to mark the end of the contest, the Tornadoes celebrated at mid-court to the cheers and acknowledge the adulation of the supporters on hand.
After shaking the hands of their opponents and congratulating them on a hard-fought effort, the team headed to the locker room for thier post-game meeting.
Post-game: Congrats and critiques
Back in the locker room, Burns posted the game stats to review the accomplishments of the squad for the night, as well as the challenges the team is still faced in their execution.
The Tornadoes improved in some areas of concern — cutting the layups they missed in half and scoring a season-high 70 points. However, Burns expected them to perform better in scoring baskets.
“We are a better scoring team than we’ve shown. We did better tonight than we have this season, but there’s a lot more improvement to be made. Right now, our records stands at 7-0, but we’re still not where we need to be. We need to continue to work and not be satisfied at where we are in our gameplay,” Burns said to his players.
“We’re a good basketball team, but we’re not great yet — but we can be. We work hard and we can get there.”
Along with Reginald Harris’s 21 points, the Tornadoes also had two players who scored in double digits — Jermichael Harris with 17 points and Sims with 16 points.
Reginald attributed his high-scoring night to the work of his teammates, who were able to feed him the able for good shots.
“The guys gave me great passes tonight and I was able to deliver points to the team on those opportunities,” Reginald said.
“We work on finding the open man in practice and getting points on every chance that’s presented to us — it paid off well tonight. We’ve got practically the entire season still ahead of us and we all want to continue to get better, but I think tonight was a step for us on offense.”
Burns commended Reginald’s play for the evening, calling him the “type of player everyone wants on their team.”
“Reggie’s motor doesn’t ever stop. He gets a lot of points off of transition opportunities and he plays tremendous defense — in fact of people do not realize that he had 116 steals last season,” Burns said. “He relentlessly pressures guards and often guards our opponents best players very well. When he’s able to pick up the points like he did tonight, it’s just an added bonus. A very big part of our team’s success is his defensive play, but as we have seen tonight, he’s extremely capable on offense as well.”