GONZALES — Down one with early in the fourth quarter, the Gonzales Apaches have fought back from an earlier seven-point deficit to get back in the game against the Sealy Tigers at home. But missed layups and some issues on their transition defense was too much to overcome as the Apaches fell 55-45.
“It’s as if we would just trade baskets,” Apaches’ head coach A.J. Irwin said. “Sealy did a good job of reading that. We just have to get back into our defense quicker. I have to do a better job of getting these guys prepared defensively out of a basket.”
The Apaches aren’t operating with a full 15-man roster just yet, but Irwin did note with the football season over, some athletes are still transitioning to “basketball shape,” which is different than “football shape.”
“I got kids coming in ‘football ready’ and they’ll bully you around for a little bit and by three or four trips down the floor, [they’re saying] ‘oh man I got to get back to basketball shape,’” Irwin noted.
Their first test was against Class 6A Manor, and the new head coach used that as a teaching moment for his Runnin’ Apache hopefuls.
“[They] gave our guys a great idea of the basketball world, a great idea of what’s out there,” Irwin said. “It was a great opportunity for those kids to see ‘hey, look where we are right now’ and in the future it’s going to be one of those deals where we say ‘look how much we’ve grown, look how much better we’ve gotten.’”
Tuesday night against Sealy was another step in the process for the Apaches. Despite some mishaps, the team is showing flickers of what could be.
Transitioning and taking advantage of turnovers was a bright spot for the team. The “get out and go” philosophy that Irwin wants to see was there in spurts for the Apaches.
“We looked like we had been doing this for a little while,” he noted. “There were times where you can see what Gonzales used to be. You can see the ‘get out and go.’ You can see the fight, glimpses of it, but we need a ‘full length feature film’ of the Running Apaches and what we need to become in terms of a program. And we’re well on our way to it.”
Leading scoring was Matthew Velasquez-Banda with 16 points. Trevion McNeil came away with seven points while Mason Richter, Diego Diaz DeLeon, José Niño and Juan Licea added four points to the scoresheet. Fernando Garcia had a fourth-quarter three, while Benjamin Stone had two points and I.G. Franklin came away with a bucket.
One of the issues on the court was free throws, as the Apaches went 6-of-21 from the free-throw line.
“We got to make more than we missed,” Irwin joked, when asked about the low percentage.
“We’re shooting 29 percent from the stripe,” he added. “If we turn that into 11-for-21, now we’re talking about it being a five-point game, essentially shifting some things.”
Irwin then noted that the team missed 10 layups in the first quarter, and nearly 15-20 by halftime.
“That’s 30-40 points,” he said. “If we make our layups, even if we miss those free throws, it’s a different ball game.”
It’s only been a week of practices for the full team, especially with athletes transitioning from football to basketball. The head coach admitted that the focus is on scheme and understanding “basketball sense.” But soon after the team will get to those little things such as free-throw shooting, although he puts a higher premium on making those layups.
“Free throws are extremely important in a game where you shoot 21 free throws, but you shoot 40-50 layups and that’s essentially 80-100 points,” Irwin said.
There’s a process being worked on at the Apache gym. Irwin knows it’s going to take some time. He’s just hoping the Running Apaches come sooner, rather than later.
Gonzales takes on Blanco on the road tonight, with tipoff scheduled at 6:30 p.m.