This is one way to start the new year.
Playing the kind of level-headed basketball with phenomenal passing that you see on a high school team, Leander split Glenn 61-37 in Tuesday’s 25-5A district game at Glenn High School.
And the game wasn’t as close as the score indicated, with the Lions leading 60-29 at one point in the fourth quarter as their zone defense gave the Grizzlies much of the night.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” said longtime Leander coach Clint Bradley. “It was a collective, team work. We shared the ball great; our defense was tight; we recovered well and overall we did a lot of good things tonight.”
Whatever defense Glenn used, Leander always had some sort of answer. Whether it was finding a hole in the zone, overcoming a trap or pressing, or landing an attack accurately against a human-to-human, the Lions always seemed to throw the right pass.
“We talk all the time about who looks better,” Bradley said. “It’s not about who can open up, it’s about who has the best match and the best shot we can make half the court. Our guys are starting to believe in it, and when they understand this and follow this equation, we will have a chance for great success.”
The teams entered the competition with vastly different momentum, with the Grizzlies winning a five-game streak while Leander lost five in a row.
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But after Christopher Benham’s basket gave Glenn a 9-8 lead, the Lions went on a 28-8 blitz for the rest of the first half to take control, Sean Dahlberg scored seven and Mason Sickles and Ryder Bradley hit two three-pointers. during stretching.
“Last week we went to Dallas for the tournament and we had some good and bad moments, but we didn’t win a single game,” said Clint Bradley. “But we came back better, and that was critical for us. Sometimes it’s hard for 15-17 year olds to understand but we as staff knew that everything would be ok once we got here. I knew we’d come out today and be cool – and we were.”
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Leander’s lead hovered around 20 for most of the third quarter before breaking the 30-point mark in the fourth quarter.
It should be noted that Glenn – a team that essentially starts with five defenders and has little post presence – has been icy on the pitch, with the exception of Benham. The Grizzlies scored just six points in the second quarter, and during the nearly 20-minute stretch of playing time from the start of the second quarter to the end of the fourth, Benham was Glenn’s only player to score.
The lack of hits kept the Grizzlies out of the press, where they thrive.
But credit must be given to Leander’s defense, which displayed several zone looks with occasional transitions between men.
“We controlled the pace and didn’t let them get into their stuff,” Ryder Bradley said. “We made them make a lot of bad shots, and for us on offense everyone was good at throwing the ball.”
Leander reports that Dahlberg, Garrett Sisk and Khalil Liggins also took advantage of their size in the paint, with Sisk leading the Lions with 17 points, Dahlberg with 16 and Liggins with six.
Sickles finished with nine points, all with three-pointers, while Hayden Lucas and Ryder Bradley each had seven points as six players scored all the Lions’ points. Benham 24 points ahead of Glenn (13-10, 1-1).
Having started the county game with a loss to Liberty Hill before Christmas, the Lions (12-9, 1-1) would have put any hopes of a county championship in a deep hole with another loss, but if they continue to play the way they did in Tuesday, they may be part of a district race that will last until the final week.
“It’s great to come back in this form after starting in the district with a defeat,” said Ryder Bradley. “We moved the ball well and took good care of it. We only had two losses in the first half, and when you take care of the ball, it’s easy basketball.”