The highest jump in Germantown’s gym last Tuesday was not from a shot.
Watching a roll-out field goal attempt by Dragons guard Kevin Wright hang on the rim for seconds before falling off, Collierville Head Coach Jonathan Mooneyham leaped up in a déjà vu moment.
“The funny thing, two years ago we played here and it was the night the (Golden State) Warriors were here and Germantown retired one of the uniforms of one of their former players who was on the Warriors,” said Mooneyham.
Former Germantown player Ian Clark’s No. 21 jersey was retired on Dec. 10, 2016. He brought the Warriors to his retirement ceremony. Clark, who played from 2005-09 and scored 1,846 points, was the first GHS player to play in the NBA.
“The game went down to the wire and we had a possession to win it. We ran a play from one of our most dynamic guys off the dribble and the same thing happened. The ball hung, hung, hung on the rim and it fell off that night too. We ended up losing in overtime. It happened on the same (east) end,” Mooneyham said. “Tonight that one would have put us up 10 so I was really wanting that one.”
Wright’s free throws with 4:43 left to play had put the Dragons on top 43-35 before they took a 10-point lead, 45-35, on free throws by Jordan Jenkins with 3:48 left.
After the Red Devils tied the game at 35 with 7:11 left in the fourth on a trey by Kameron Phillips, they did not score a basket the rest of the game.
Limiting Germantown to three free throws, Collierville went on a 21-3 run to win the 15-AAA contest 56-38.
After the game, Germantown Head Coach Jon Lanter joked, “I want to check the rim on this (west) end to see if the ball goes through.”
In the first half the Red Devils had no problem scoring and led 25-24. They went up 32-29 on a 3-pointer by Jalen Tillery in the third quarter before Jenkins tied the game with a trey, 32-32.
A rebound and put-back by Kyle Warren gave the Dragons a 34-32 lead with 2:17 left in the third.
“It was definitely a battle even though we won by 18. When we got back out there the second half, we started fighting, sharing the ball and getting easy transition buckets and getting up on them and not letting down. We were having really good help side and communication on every screen. Everybody knew who to guard. It was great communication,” said Warren, a senior forward.
The win put Collierville at 11-8, 2-2 in the district while Germantown fell to 3-18, 0-4 in district.
“It was a tale of two halves. The first half was really neck and neck, give and go. One team would go up 2 or 3 and the other team would come back and go up 2 or 3. In the second half we got a few easy ones against their press and then we were able to make it a 10 to 12-point spread most of the way in the fourth,” said Mooneyham.
The game was tied eight times before the Dragons pulled away to a 47-35 lead on a basket by Wes Davis and to a 17- point lead when Warren, who was wide-open, scored underneath.
Breaking a 5:47 scoreless drought, Germantown’s Alan Bowland sank two free throws with 1:24 left in the game. A free throw by C.J. Wilson gave the Dragons their largest lead, 56-37. Manny Strickland scored Germantown’s third point of the quarter on a free throw with 19.4 left.
“We are not real dynamic offensively. We don’t have anybody that is going to get a 20-point game on a given night so we have to have pride in our defense,” said Mooneyham. “They understand we have got to be able to do our job offensively every possession for us to have chances to win. We did that second half. We were a little sloppy in the first half. We didn’t communicate real well a few times.
“In the second half we did a good job keeping them in front of us, not giving up straight-line drives, then blocking out and rebounding and not giving them more than one look.
“I think the guys understand now if we will just be solid not splashy then we have a chance to make the easy play. It is much easier if you make the game simple by being aware of what is going on around you. I think the second half they bought into that,” said Mooneyham, in his seventh year at Collierville.
Wright scored a game-high 15 points. Jenkins added 14, Wilson 8, Jeff Hubbart 7, Warren 6 for Collierville.
“Kevin scored his average. Jeff was a little below but he did make a three tonight. He has been in a 3-slump so that was nice to see. Jordan Jenkins came off the bench. I thought he played well.”
The fourth quarter was the turning point.
Hubbart’s assist to Davis who scored broke the 35-35 tie. Warren added a basket, Andrew Smith a free throw and the Dragons continued to expand their lead on goals by Wright and Jenkins.
“We broke their press. It was 3-on-1 or 3-on-2 and we got some layups and I think that created enough of a cushion for us to play a little more relaxed and then it was a matter of not taking bad shots and being solid defensively and making free throws. We didn’t make as many of those as I would have liked but that was the game plan down the stretch.”
Said Warren, the Dragons’ leading rebounder averaging 5 per game, “We kept getting steal after steal and punching it up in transition and getting easy layups.”
Lanter said the Dragons’ seasoned players, turnovers and missed shots made a difference in the fourth quarter.
“We are playing a lot of guys who are still getting used to playing varsity minutes in crunch time and the ball is rattling out for us and they are taking time and getting their shots, getting an easy one in transition. It kind of snowballs,” he said. “It was probably our worst shooting night of the year. It seems like there was a lid on it.
“We made a lot of useless turnovers,” he continued. “We got in a hurry at times and forced some plays but Collieville does a great job. They made adjustments against our 1-2-2 press and getting advantage situations where they were 3-on-2 or 2-on-1. They got some easy layups and that built confidence for them.”
Lanter, who says the running joke in his family is “that we are not bright enough” to put an “n” on their last name to be lantern, was pleased with shot selection.
“The positive was the shots that we were taking. Our guys are taking the looks we want them to take,” Lanter said.
Those included shots that attacked the basket and in the paint, at-the-rim layups and rhythm jumpers.
“There were several times what was going to be a good shot, we made the pass to make a great shot. Sometimes a great shot doesn’t fall but when you have a guy who is more open, who is good or is a better shooter, we want the ball to swing to him and the guys were doing that,” said Lanter, whose team has been resilient and has lost one-possession games with less than two minutes left in the game.
Kameron Phillips’ 8 points led the Red Devils. Vincent Thomas added 7, Garret Krume 6, Jalen Tillery 5, and Charles Egbuniwe 5.
In the first quarter a steal by Andrew Smith led to a basket by Jenkins. A trey by Egbuniwe put the Red Devils ahead 9-8. A 3-pointer by Thomas kept Germantown up 14-12.
After two free throws by Wilson gave the Dragons a 22-18 lead, the Red Devils took their halftime lead behind Phillips’ 3-pointer and field goal plus a steal and score by Krume.
Hubbart’s 3-pointer tied the game at 29 and Tillery gave the Red Devils their last lead with his trey.
“We will keep our energy and keep talking all the time to keep positive,” said Warren. “Jordan stepped up tonight. He was handling the ball really well. I remember telling him, ‘They are going to keep putting their hands on you every time. Keep attacking and you will get to the free throw line and get easy points off that.’”
Lanter said that Egbuniwe made good shots.
“Charles is always going to be one of our better shooters. Kameron had a good night. He came in and gave us really good minutes with a lot of good energy. He rotates over from the weak side and gets a block and goes down in transition, ges a catch and shoots the three. Garrett had one of his better games. If those layups fall for him he is probably ends up close to 20. He is doing exactly what we want him to in terms of defensive pressure. He is rebounding well.
“Jaylen Redd gave us some great defensive play. Milton Davis started us for at center. He does a great job rebounding. Justin Curry gave us some good minutes off the bench and Deron Coleman gave us some good spurts from the bench.
“The biggest thing about this group, they really enjoy coming to work each day. It is one of the first teams I have encountered that enjoys practice more than games.
“I think it is from displaying a growth mentality. They know they need to get better. We try to make it fun. We blare music while we are practicing and get after it and the other coaches do a great job of interacting with the guys to keep it a fun, competitive environment.
“We are going to see the fruition from all of the work in practice. It is just not here yet. It’s on the way. It’s always evolving. We always tell our guys that whenever all of us come to play it’s going to be a scary thing.”
Collierville’s season has had its ups and downs said Warren.
“We have been getting it together recently. We had a struggling point when we were on a 3-game losing streak and we all went out to lunch one day after practice and we had a talk,” he said. “We have to pass the ball more. This is not a me-team kind of thing and after that talk we have been doing a lot better.”
Warren is hoping his calf is better. Before the game he went to a chiropractor to relieve some calf problems.
His entire ankle was taped and tape brought up his right leg. A line across the tape to make it look like a cross.
“It’s like some bone in my knee keeps getting out of place and they were popping it back and trying to tape this to see if that would help which did a lot,” he said. “I’m going to leave this on for probably the next week and get it retaped because the doctor said I could get it retaped every week or so. I am going to keep doing that (shape of a cross).”
Davis finished with 4 points, Smith 1, Matt Cox 1. Hubbart averages a team-high 13 points along with Wright.
Bowland had 2, Manny Strickland 1, Redd 2, Davis 2 for the Red Devils. Thomas leads the team with a 15-point average. Egbuniwe averages a team-high 5 rebounds.
Mooneyham did not take jump shot at Harding Academy. At 6-2 he played post and “was never allowed on the perimeter. I was about as big as we had. I was 6-2 in the ninth grade so they thought I was going to be 6-6.”
A graduate of David Lipscomb University, Mooneyham was a graduate assistant under Don Meyer. He was also a graduate assistant at Virginia Commonwealth University, working under Sonny Smith, a former Auburn coach.
“A lot of those influences I try to put out here. There is really nothing new in basketball. You learn from the people before you. You try to teach the way they teach or maybe a little better,” said Mooneyham, whose has his coach in 1986 as an assistant, Roy Kirkland.
“Now we are together in high school 30 something years later. He makes me laugh. We talk about old times a lot and he keeps it light and that is a good thing.”
Lanter, who played at Belleville (Ill.) East, was a practice player against the women’s team while at the University of Illinois.
“It’s a great idea. You get a whole different look. You can find a handful of guys on any college campus who can provide length and athleticism to give you a challenging look in practice every day. Unfortunately I don’t see a whole lot of 6-2, 6-3 girls walking around,” said Lanter, who was a freshman coach at Germantown and junior varsity coach. He was an assistant coach at Christian Brothers High School before moving to Germantown.
Against Germantown, Mooneyham knew it was going to be a battle.
“It is always the case for us. If we can score we are usually going to do a pretty good job in half-court defense and we are going to rebound well enough defensively and then we are going to score enough to beat you.”