Local hoops teams deal with delays

Bad weather, cancellations hinder preparation for big games
Jan. 30, 2014 @ 06:45 AM

Although area schools are dealing with inclement weather and cancellations, local basketball teams still have important games scheduled for Friday night.

Chase (4-12, 1-10 SMAC) is traveling to R-S Central (10-9, 4-7 SMAC) in hopes of resurrecting a dismal season while East Rutherford (13-4, 8-2 SMAC) is set to play Shelby (17-1, 11-0 SMAC) in a crucial conference showdown between perennial powers.

Both teams were set to play on Tuesday Chase against Crest and East Rutherford against Burns on the road but those games were pushed back to Wednesday, then again to Thursday and then again to next Monday.

Now that the Chase and East Rutherford don't have to worry about playing on back-to-back nights, they can focus on their Friday opponents. There's just one thing, they can't practice.

According to Chase head coach Joe Jessen, a day off here and there isn't always a bad thing, especially for a team that's lost nine of its last 10 games.

"I didn't want three days off, but I thought one day off might be nice to just give them a break from basketball. Because to be honest, we had a bad practice on Monday," Jessen said. "I think they might have been a little burnt out. Hopefully this break will get them energized."

"Everything for us is very routine and from from Christmas time until now everything has been off kilter for us," East Rutherford head coach Brad LeVine said. "We've only been in school six days, excluding exams, since Dec. 20. You can't get any kind of rhythm like that.

"Sometimes a kid won't have school for two or three straight days and you know good and well what they're doing. They're probably staying up late and then laying in the bed half of the next day."

Jessen, who said he would like to et his boys back on the court, doesn't thing the upsetting of his team's routine is incredibly detrimental to the Trojans' success.

"At this point in the season I don't think it hurts us as bad as it would early in the season," Jessen said. "We've got our routine and they know what to expect and they know the system we're trying to run. And R-S isn't practicing either so we'll just go out there and play Chase basketball."

LeVine and the Cavaliers held practice Wednesday with the permission of East Rutherford administration and took every precaution to ensure his players' safety.

"When we're out of school it's up to the administration of that particular school. All the major roads were clear and the coaches picked everyone up today. We'll do the same on Thursday," LeVine said. "If a kid needs a ride I told them to let me know and I'll come get them. We don't tell a kid that they have to drive. If they have to miss a practice because they can't make it here, that's totally excused."

LeVine didn't learn the Rutherford County Schools (RCS) had canceled school on Thursday until after his team's practice, therefore, his team spent the afternoon preparing for the Burns Bulldogs (6-12, 3-8 SMAC) instead of the Shelby Golden Lions.

"It's not really a problem, but this time of the year you do try to prepare for the strengths of the other team," LeVine said. "It's a change of thought and a change of mindset for a lot of these kids and it does change what you work on in practice.

"You have to make sure you touch all the basics at every practice. You have to work on your man offense every day and from there you work other things in that a team you're facing might try. You throw in some odd or even front zone work, screening and other aspects."

For Jessen and his struggling Trojans, it's more important to him how his team performs regardless of the opponent.

"At this point in the season with our record I'm not that concerned with what the other team is going to do as much as I'm concerned with how my boys are going to play," Jessen said. "The goal for us right now is just to do what we're supposed to do and play hard, play smart and take care of the ball."

In the end, the coaches have about as much control over schedule changes as they do over the weather. Therefore, they'll take the court Friday night whether they're fully prepared or not.

"It's our second lap around the conference and this time of year you just have to be rocking and rolling and ready to play," LeVine said.

"I hope they'll get up for R-S with it being a county game whether we practiced in the last week or not," Jessen said. "We just need to come out with some energy."