It's never a smooth ride for a new head coach along the road to rebuilding success.
After Thursday night's 62-51 win over Allegany-Limestone, however, Southwestern Trojans' first-year head coach Andy Krenzer is starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
The Trojans played a complete basketball game to secure the 11-point victory, outrunning, outrebounding and outshooting the Gators in a contest who's score made it seem closer than it actually was.
Kyle Couchenour of Southwestern puts up a shot during Thursday night’s Division 1 boys basketball game against Allegany-Limestone. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Rob Tucker
"It's exciting," Krenzer said. "Because I have the best group of kids, I believe, in Western New York."
The victory improved the Trojans record to 8-4 overall and 5-3 in Division 1.
Southwestern's senior captain Justin Funcell, who finished with 10 points and nine rebounds, hit a jumper in the paint in the opening minute of the game and for the next 31 minutes the Trojans never relinquished the lead.
For Krenzer, the team's defensive intensity is finally reaching the level he had always envisioned.
"In the preseason I was talking to a lot of different people saying, 'We're going to be an attacking defense,' and we've finally caught on to it. We're finally there."
That defense forced three turnovers on the Gators' (6-7, 4-5) first three possessions and allowed the Trojans to jump out to a 10-3 lead midway through the period. In the final two minutes of the quarter, the Trojans' defense created four more turnovers in the Gators' final five possessions. Nevertheless, thanks to solid shooting by Allegany's Joe Derose, who had four 3-pointers on his way to scoring a team-high 14 points, Southwestern led just 18-13.
It was in the second period that Krenzer's crew took over the game as they hit four 3-pointers and scored 20 points while allowing the Gators just 10.
Jake Swan, who scored a game-high 15 points to go along with four assists and four steals, hit Southwestern's first field goal of the period, the first of his two triples, at the six-minute mark, extending his team's advantage to 22-15. After another Allegany turnover, Nick Austin, who scored 11 points and grabbed 12 boards, flashed open in the paint and finished with a layup and then Jimmy Rauh followed with his first 3-pointer to make the score 27-17. Rauh followed with two more 3-pointers during the Trojans' next three possessions to make the Southwestern advantage 35-23.
A 3-pointer from Bradley Jarrett, his only points of the game, at the buzzer made the score 38-23 at half.
Krenzer noted that most of the open looks for 3 came from dribble-penetration and kicking out, something they have been working on all season.
"Really it was all set up because we were concentrating on reversing the ball and on dribble-penetration and kick out," he said. "We've been talking about it and now we finally did it and it worked out pretty well."
The Gators worked hard to move rotate the Trojans' zone defense out of position during the third and found success in the second half's opening possession. They made nine passes from one corner to the other when Raheem Silva finally got an open look on the left wing that he took full advantage of, but Southwestern answered with a 12-5 run to end the quarter.
In the final frame the Gators began to foul in order to stop the clock and force Southwestern to earn the victory at the line. The strategy was successful for the Gators as the Trojans hit just six of 12 free throw shots.
It was the one area that Krenzer was not particularly happy with after the game.
"We've got to hit foul shots down the stretch," he said.
After suffering a 60-42 loss to undefeated Dunkirk on Tuesday, the Trojans' mantra was "bounce back," given to them by Southwestern football coach Jay Sirianni, no stranger to building a successful athletic program.
"Jay talks a lot to the kids about putting in the hard work to begin with, having faith in each other and when things go wrong to bounce back." Krenzer said. "The second the buzzer rang in Dunkirk our kids were calling out, "bounce back, bounce back,' and in the pregame, 'Bounce back.' And they believed it."
He added, "I should thank Jay for helping to instill that in my kids. They totally took belief in that and they came out with a lot of energy and did a nice job tonight."
Derose 5 0 14, Costa 6 0 12, Tang 3 5 12, Silva 2 0 6, Harrington 2 1 5, Schuh 1 0 2. Totals 19 6 51.
Austin 4 3 11, Swan 5 3 15, Rauh 5 0 13, Trathem 0 1 1, Funcell 3 4 10, Jarrett 1 0 3, Radack 1 0 2, Couchenour 2 0 5. Totals 21 11 62.
3-point goals: Derose 4, Tang, Silva 2, Swan 2, Rauh 3, Jarrett, Couchenour.
Allegany-Limestone13 10 8 20 - 51
Southwestern18 20 12 12 - 62
Jayvees: Allegany-Limestone won.