Fast-Starting Howard Rolls To 3-AA Victory, 70-40

Saturday, February 23, 2013 - by David Jenkins
- photo by Greg Davick
    If only ...

    If only teams followed the game plan as well as the Howard Hustlin' Tigers followed Coach Walt McGary's directive Saturday, a coach's job would be, dare we say, a piece of cake?

    "It would make life a whole lot easier," McGary conceded after the Tigers pounced on visiting Polk County early and often en route to a 70-40 first-round win in the Region 3-AA tournament Saturday afternoon. The Tigers now move into the semifinals Tuesday against the winner of the Central-Meigs County battle in a game that will be contested at McMinn County High School.

    The Tigers' strategy, simple as it sounds, has been anything but a cinch this year. More than anything else that happened Saturday, the mere fact that his starters stuck with it tells him that they might be ready for the big push.

    "It was simple: feed the big man (Brandon Walters), pass it around, get everybody involved," McGary said. "That's pretty effective, as you saw. When we move the ball around from side to side, we're pretty hard to defend."

    Even though Polk's Evan Ball would put on quite a shooting exhibition, it only came after Howard scored the game's first 14 points. In went something like this: Xavier Harris fed Walters for a layup; Shailique Cameron dished to Walters for a layup; Chris Walton fired a bullet pass into Walters for a jam; Antonio Smith penetrated and dished off to Harris for a three-point play; and did likewise for his backcourt mate Cameron; and then Smith took it himself and capped the game-opening run.

    All five Howard starters scored in the first quarter, one in which the team hit 10-of-11 field goals (missing only a Walters dunk try). Add to that, all eight Tigers who played in the first half were in the scoring column.  While Walters had 12 of his team-best 27 points at the half, it wasn't his performance that most pleased McGary.

    "That today was Antonio's best game of the season, hands down," the coach praised. Smith had 11 points and five assists, but his lack of turnovers under pressure has been a developing asset as the season goes along.

    Walters, who has enjoyed several dominating performances lately, recorded 12 rebounds and three blocked shops to go with his points. But his presence on the floor as an active, mobile 6-foot-8 defender is best reflected in this stat: while Polk County hit 11 3-point field goals in the game, the Wildcats hit exactly two field goals from inside the arc.

    Ball put on much of this exhibition, hitting seven treys as part of his 27-point day to match Walters for game honors. But none of his teammates hit more than one 3-pointer or reached double figures as the Wildcats' season ends with a 7-24 record.

    Harris' nine was the next-best scoring total for the 24-5 Tigers this day, but more significantly, 11 of the 12 men who played, scored -- including key sixth man LoRenzo McCauley, back about 90 percent from a bad ankle sprain.

    Just the way McGary drew it up.

Region 3-AA at Howard
Polk County    11    10    8    11    --    40
Howard        23    12    17    18    --    70

    POLK CO. (40) -- Hutcheson, Evan Ball 27, Groomes 3, Richmond 4, Der. Weber 3, Locke, Coffey, Keith 3, Cross, Dev. Weber.

    HOWARD (70) -- Antonio Smith 11, Cameron 3, Walton 3, Harris 9, Brandon Walters 27, Young 2, Byrd 2, Brown 2, Norwood, Wynn 4, Lewis 4, McCauley 3.

    3-point goals: Polk Co. 11 (Ball 7, Groomes, Keith, Richmond, Weber); Howard 2 (McCauley, Walton).

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