BENSALEM – Holiday basketball tournaments entail more than a festive atmosphere. For most coaches, they include a chance to hone skills, test potential talent and solidify team chemistry.
Jerry Devine, head basketball coach at Bristol High School, accomplished all these feats in the recent Dick Dougherty tournament held at Bensalem High School. The Warriors’ docket included an opening round match with Bensalem of the Suburban One League followed up by a showdown with the Science Leadership Academy squad, from Philadelphia. Both encounters would provide ample learning opportunities for the young Warriors.
Facing the Owls presented some real matchup challenges for Bristol. Bensalem featured a front court duo of James Lieble (6’6”) and Kris Shields (6’3”) complimented by the backcourt tandem of Taco Douglas (6’0”) and Ward Roberts (6’1”). Together, they combined to stake the Owls to a 21-9 first quarter lead.
After the tentative start, Bristol showed real grit in battling back. With Dayeshawn Cortez and Alex Gerbo leading the charge the Warriors managed to match their opponent’s 16 points in the second half. With only 9.8 seconds left in the third quarter the Warriors had narrowed the margin to just ten buckets.
Cortez, who ended up as his team’s tournament Most Valuable Player, would score 16 points for the night, earning him his coaches praise. “He’s really starting to stay tuned to the game. He’s a real gamer when he plays within the team game.”
Alex Jerbo matched his backcourt mate’s productivity as he penetrated the Owl defense for 10 points. He too won some well-deserved praise from Coach Devine.
“He’s playing really well. He has progressed and gotten really good. He wasn’t as certain coming into the season but he is much steadier now. He’s learned he can be aggressive and still not turn the ball over. He’s really starting to understand the concepts of the game.”
Though falling on the short side of the final 69-45 score, the Warriors showed real determination in battling their worthy foe. Coach Devine knew the next test was seeing if they could maintain that intensity. The Science Leadership Academy proved a smaller opponent who carried only seven players on its roster.
Coach Devine sensed his team might be too relaxed this time. “Overall, we played really well against Bensalem. In this game (Science Leadership Academy) I thought they took it more for granted. I was afraid they would take this as a shoot around.”
The coaches wisdom prevailed as the Rockets paced by Jakol Centor and Ijustice Avery jumped out to an early 10-0 lead. Dayeshawn Cortez managed to break Bristol’s scoring draught, hitting a jumper and then collecting a foul to reduce the margin to 10-3.
After the Rockets scored another quick bucket, increasing the lead to 12-3, coach Devine called a timeout. A strategy switch was needed. “Early on, we had to go to the press team. That’s what we go to when the going is close.”
The wake-up call worked as Bristol slowly chipped away at the Rockets’ advantage. The Warriors finally took a 17-15 lead on a driving layup by Cortez with 3:30 left in the second quarter. A three-point shot by Jarvis Zyvonoski increased that margin to 40-25 with two minutes gone in the second half.
The 51-31 Bristol win showed coach Devine the caliber of his team. “In the second half, they came out with much greater intensity and drive. There was not much energy in the beginning. But they put it together when they needed to.”
The Warriors had learned several valuable lessons in the Bensalem tournament, experiences that should help make them a potent force as the regular season heats up.
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