The Potomac Panthers made the trip down to my hometown of Fredericksburg, VA on Friday for an evening showdown against James Monroe High School. When talking to coaches of the two teams prior to the game, I could sense both programs were going through a similar situation in still trying to figure things out on the court. From my own experience, most teams don’t really start gaining high confidence in execution until after Christmas break, so I can definitely understand the process. Nevertheless, Friday night resulted as a pretty exciting night of hoops, ESPECIALLY in the third quarter. One can expect that, when you have two hard-nosed groups going at each other.
Potomac – 64
James Monroe – 48
- After a slow shooting start, Potomac really turned it up on the defensive end late in the first quarter to go on a big run that saw them increase their lead to 15. They picked off steal after steal whenever JM tried to make passes around the half-court line and ended up converting several finishes even while getting fouled. Simply put, the Panthers looked best when they turned their defense into offense. That same type of play occurred again in the fourth quarter when they put the game out of reach.
- JM has some guys who can put it on the floor but they need to learn how to attack the rim while being more under control. They looked pretty charge-prone on Friday; something that Potomac noticed and capitalized from. Shooting-wise, the Yellow Jackets struggled for most of the game but a positive note involves how they do a solid job in getting the looks they want. That’s the first step… knocking them down will come with more reps in practice.
- As I mentioned earlier, the third period contained the most excitement, as JM displayed some serious fight and cut Potomac’s lead down to six at one point. The Yellow Jackets started taking charges and finishing more in the paint, while their 3-2 zone press worked a bit better in slowing down the Panthers. JM’s a team that definitely doesn’t back down… just needs to make smarter plays more consistently.
- During my ‘open gym tour’ visit to watch the Panthers back in October, I remember head coach Keith Honore stating how the team would need to focus on defense more than anything else heading into this season. Well, they obviously showed how good they can play on that end as a unit throughout Friday night. Their collective gifts of quickness and instincts prove a big reason for that. Offensively, however, they can get a bit stagnant at times in the half-court.
- Turnovers appear as JM’s Achilles heel right now. They had an ample number of them all throughout the game and it made a big difference for Potomac, who plays really scrappy. Fixing this should be one of, if not, the main areas of focus in the next several practices.
Friday Night Standouts
Anthony Jackson ’21 – Potomac: Overall, it wasn’t the best shooting night for either team, but Jackson stood out as the exception. The sophomore two-guard must’ve had a liking for JM’s rims, as he caught fire right away from the perimeter in the first quarter. I remember he hit one three-pointer from the left corner and then came back down the floor again to cash in the same shot from the same spot, while getting fouled. Both shots didn’t even touch the rim; all net. There’s other areas of the game that Jackson can keep improving on to become more of a bigger threat with the ball but his shooting undoubtedly will be appreciated/needed for the Panthers all season long. He went 5-10 from three-point territory for a team-high 17 points. Only one other teammate (Kyle Honore ’22) hit a three-pointer.
Ricky Goode-Wright ’21 – JM: After a very quiet first half, the Yellow Jackets’ standout sophomore exploded in the third quarter. He did most of the work in willing JM back into the game; making defensive plays and scoring 13 points in the period alone. Goode-Wright’s adjusting to a new role as the team’s primary ball-handler now. Last season, he played more off of the ball as a shooter. He looked pretty good in his ability to get past Potomac’s defenders at the top of the key and create for his own shot. He’s put on some muscle and has the confident presence of a veteran, only as a sophomore. However, his shot selection and turnovers held him back from ending with an efficient game. In Goode-Wright’s case, I can tell he wants to make plays for his teammates, but decides a bit too late at times, which usually results in the ball ending up in the hands of the other team. As he continues to figure out how to play as a floor general, I’m confident he’ll keep progressing.
Jakhari Taylor ’19 – Potomac: The Panthers selected their senior leader as the team’s ‘player of the game’ (per the team’s Twitter page) after he posted 14 points (5-6 shooting), five rebounds, and played his typical stifling defense. Even with the talented underclassmen on the roster, I see Taylor acting as the main engine for Potomac in these games. He has a lot of intangibles and relishes the assignment of guarding the opposing team’s best player. When Potomac’s defense really locked in, one could see Taylor orchestrating it. His athleticism gave JM trouble as he kept getting to the basket and made all of his free throws. Very solid performance from the veteran.
Lual Chol ’19 – JM: A lengthy forward for the Yellow Jackets, standing around 6’6,” Chol had the best rebounding game out of anyone on the night. He has a good wingspan and strong hands to go after misses with two-hands. His hustle on the glass showed its most importance in the second half, when JM started to fuel their comeback. Offensively, Chol showed some nice touch around the rim but needs to play stronger with the ball and not bring it down to the level of defenses.
Tyrell Harris ’21 – Potomac: Another piece of the Panthers’ talented class of 2021 group, Harris played strongly around the rim area in finishing through contact and grabbing rebounds. He didn’t have to do much with the ball in his hands but moved around the floor very well to get open and score quick finishes. He didn’t take many jumpers (only two three-pointers) so, if he can continue to display more of an outside game, that’ll give the Panthers more of a boost in their perimeter scoring. Trying to earn paint points all of the time will become a burden at some point. Still, Harris’ efficiency and easy way of playing the game looked good; he ended with 11 points (4-6 from the field), six rebounds, and two steals.
After Friday night, Potomac now sits at 4-2, while the Yellow Jackets fall to 1-3. Keep in mind about JM’s upcoming hosted ‘Holiday Tournament’ after Christmas; December 27-29!