By Frank Foreman
If you’re looking for the Reynolds boys basketball team, you’ll probably find them located somewhere behind the 3-point line.
The Raiders at times couldn’t miss from behind the arc Thursday night, and coupled with a Maplewood opponent that continually turned the ball over, the opening round contest of the CASH Boosters Holiday Hoops Tournament got out of hand early, and turned into a lopsided 77-34 victory for Reynolds.
Three different Raiders drained three 3-pointers, and as a team, Reynolds went 10-for-20 from 3-point land in the win. To make matters worse, the Tigers kept handing possession after possession over to the Raiders, and Reynolds made them pay nearly every time.
“Turnovers are a big issue with this group,” first-year Maplewood head coach Scott Palotas said. “We had 16 turnovers at halftime. If you are turning it over that many times in the first half, you’re not going to win many games.”
Sloppy ball control and trouble with a full-court press throughout the first half allowed Reynolds to jump out to an early lead, holding a 15-2 advantage late in the first quarter. Luckily for the Tigers, a late run made it 17-8 at the end of the first quarter, but hot shooting from Reynolds senior Cory Woods kept Maplewood from closing the gap any closer. Woods knocked down three triples in the frame, a theme that would haunt Maplewood the rest of the night.
The closest Maplewood would get to Reynolds the rest of the contest came early in the second quarter, when a Dane Barker 3-pointer and multiple trips to the free throw line for the Tigers made it 20-12 in favor of the Raiders.
That eight-point lead rapidly increased over the next four minutes for Reynolds however, eventually taking a 38-16 lead into halftime, once again courtesy of the long ball.
The Raiders, entering the game with a distinct size advantage, exposed the Maplewood zone defense in the first half. For Palotas, taking your lumps from talented Reynolds shooters was the lesser of two evils entering the game.
“We didn’t have any height to match up with their size inside,” Palotas said. “If we played man-to-man, we would have just started fouling with the Reynolds kids posting up. So it’s pick your poison. I was hoping (Reynolds) would be cold tonight, and if they were, maybe it would have been a different game.”
Reynolds opened the second half the same way it closed the first, putting on an offensive show by draining mid-range jumpers, converting three-point plays down low, and continuing to nail 3-pointers. Any thoughts of a Maplewood run to make the game close were shattered minutes into the third quarter, as the Raiders quickly increased their lead to 57-23 by the end of the frame.
Reynolds finished out the game in style, opening the fourth quarter on a 10-3 run to close out the game.
“We seem to do good things, but are always missing a component to make a complete game,” Palotas said. “We took a ton of charges tonight, and I’m happy about that, as well as with the rebounding effort. But turnovers and poor shot selection got us, and every game it’s just one or two things that is biting us.”
Reynolds spread the offense around, with five players finishing in double figures. Woods led the way with 15 points, followed by Anthony Beck with 14. Garhett Frable and Kyle McConnell both tallied 12 points in the win.
For the Tigers, Dane Barker was the high scorer with 12 points. Miller Peters chipped in seven.
It’s certainly been a tough start to the season for Maplewood, as the Tigers have just one win in nine tries. But for Palotas, it’s these games early in his tenure that he hopes will pay dividends later this season, and for years to come.
“We’re working to be competitive with these Mercer County schools,” Palotas said. “I try to make the kids see what we’re working towards, but it’s a long road.”