Focused, consistent effort continues to drive No. 1 Four Winds/Minnewaukan upward
A lot of games for the Indians in district and regional play have been similar to the first half of the matchup between the Tune Squad and the Monstars from Space Jam. One side of the scoreboard starts flipping the score, speeding up to the point where instead of a digit the score flips to "kinda one-sided isn't it?"
The complete finish isn't out of gloating or showboating or anything like that. Four Winds brings a high-powered and quick game to the court, and they don't want that to slip off in any way. They don't want to create a habit out of going up big and easing off, because, against another team, it could be a different result.
And you can see it all throughout the game that the Indians aren't easing off the gas up and down the roster. A specific four-letter started to slip out of senior guard Jacob LaRock's mouth after clinking a 3-pointer off the back of the rim and senior guard JaeShaun Shaw showed visible frustration after missing a layup on a fast break. The duo would finish 27 combined points, but it's about finishing for them at that moment.
Indians head coach Rick Smith can be heard telling his team not to get lazy or keep working. Even with a win almost ceratin, Four Winds is focused on keeping its game consistent and growing no matter what the score. The approach has led them to 15 straight wins and reclamation of the No.1 seed in the Class B rankings.
Against Warwick on Tuesday night, the Indians finished with one of their most complete efforts of the season. They broke every player on the roster into the scoring problem, putting up 43 2-point field goals. Their final score of 119-37 was the program's highest point total in almost 10 seasons. However, for the Indians, the score does matter in the end, but it's about keeping their attack stable every game.
"We're trying to stay consistent as much as we possibly can," Smith said. "We've seen a ton different defenses throughout the year and we don't get a lot of surprises late in the year. We've just got to get better at those different defenses that we'll see towards the end of the year."
The effort to stay consistent and focused from buzzer to buzzer doesn't just apply to the starting five, or the constant rotation that comes off the bench, but to everyone. Four Winds bench goes very deep, to the point where they are now focused on elevating the games of freshman forward Deng Deng and junior guard Jacolby Pearson at the eight and nine spots.
The Indians bench isn't one to sleep on either as both Deng and Pearson put up big scoring numbers later in the game. Pearson was one point shy of breaking double figures and Deng would dunk to the crowd's delight. The jam was Deng's third of the night as he dunked twice in the JV game prior.
"Our bench, our JV, have gone against the best team in practice every single night," Smith said. "For them to come off the bench, it keeps the pressure on the opposing team. We went from seven deep to now going nine deep because of all the experience some of these JV guys got."
Smith did say that it can get hard to stay in it when the Indians get up big, but the coaching staff and players continue to push the focus to finish on everyone. The eight seniors, who were celebrated on Monday night, drive to finish their final season with a state title is so strong that they are willing to do whatever they can to get there. They know that maintaining their performance in every game and practice will get them to where they need to be.
Even running up and down the roster for court time, the Indians saw its seniors shine bright. Shaw capitalized on the Indians speed game for a team-high 19 points on the night while senior center Bronson Walter set up camp under the net for 18 points, dropping 7 shots from 2-point field goal range.
Junior guard Jayden Yankton, who may be a year younger than the guys he played with for the majority of his career, maintained his scoring pace with 16 points. The Indians hype-man off the bench in senior guard Jonah Jackson dropped 13 points and senior forward Caelen Lohnes would round out the Indians double figures scoring effort with 10 points. Once the dust settled, five players, four seniors, broke into double scoring figures.
"They've missed out on some important stuff last year, dreams that a Class B player has," Smith said. "They've seen other teams that have been in the state tournament from our school. What they lost last year was tragic to them. It's not the end of the world, but it's some of their dreams. It doesn't take much for this senior group to see that they lost out on something special and have a chance to do it again. They know what they want and it's our job as coaches to remind them that this is what it's going to take."
The Indians are playing at a high standard. To fans, it may seem like Four Winds is playing a game that is almost perfect. They defeated a "rival" by 84 points and saw every player score, how can they get any better? However, on the inside, the Indians still believe that they can be playing at an even higher standard.
Four Winds is looking to move less pressure off of Walter, as he's had to deal with a double and triple guard from most opponents, and strengthen their shooters, who opponents take a risk on when they focus on Walter according to Smith. Yankton, Lohnes, Shaw, and LaRock have all proven to be dangerous from the outside, but the Indians want even more from the trio and the depth that comes off the bench
The shooting also coincides with the team's overall goal of maintaining a consistent effort throughout the game. Smith said there have been a few games where the shooting stays hot through three quarters, but there hasn't been a game where their shooting has stayed consistent throughout all four quarters.
"We've played well, but I don't think we've put a complete game together. I think we could shoot better," Smith said. "If we can do that and shoot the ball as we can, it's going to take so much pressure off Bronson. Bronson is unguardable one-on-one and everyone knows that, which is why they're taking a chance on our shooters. Coaches will say that they won't let Bronson beat us, but their shooters beat us because they're inconsistent, and we have been."
"We've had some out halves and some hot quarters in there, but I don't think we've thrown some hot four quarters in there. I think that's coming. They're getting more confident and putting time in the gym. I give them a day off, but sometimes they don't like days off."
Four Winds/Minnewaukan 119, Warwick 37
Four Winds/Minnewaukan - 31, 26, 33, 29 - 119
Warwick - 7, 12, 12, 6 - 37
Four Winds/Minnewaukan (17-1, 7-0) -- Shaw 8 1-2 19, Walter 7 4-5 18, Yankton 5 0-0 16, Jackson 5 3-3 13, Lohnes 2 0-0 10, Pearson 3 0-2 9, K. Keja 1 4-4 9, LaRock 4 0-0 8, Deng 2 0-0 4, Omen 2 0-0 4, Leftbear 1 0-0 2, Cavanuagh 1 0-0 2, K. Keja 1 0-0 2, Nestle 1 0-0 2. Totals 43 12-16 119.
Warwick (2-11, 1-5) -- Hill 2 2-2 9, Fassett 1 0-0 8, Lenior 3 0-2 6, McKay 1 2-2 4, Bigtrack 1 0-0 2, Jaramo 1 0-0 2, Cavanaugh 1 0-0 2, Feather 1 0-0 2, Anderson 1 0-0 2. Totals 12 4-6 37.
3-pointers: Four Winds/Minnewaukan 7 (Lohens 2, Yankton 2, Shaw 1, Pearson 1, K. Keja 1). Warwick 2 (Fassett 2).