After not playing since Dec. 14, Academics Plus’ return to the basketball court didn’t go too well last Friday at KIPP: Delta. Not only did the Falcons have to get back into the swing, but they also couldn’t combat KIPP’s size.
Trailing 38-9 at the half, the Falcons (8-14, 4-7) suffered a 68-28 setback. Academics Plus Coach John Harrison knew the team was going to be better since the first time the two teams met.
"The first time they beat us by about five," Harrison said. "I knew they were going to be much improved because in a tournament over Christmas, they beat Hughes and a team from Mississippi and lost to West Helena by one. They found their identity and changed things up defensively."
Part of the change was the zone where a 6-foot-6 freshman was at the top and 6-8 sophomore at the back. The wings were manned by 6-4 and 6-5 players. The Falcons can’t duplicate that size in practice.
"They did everything they wanted to against us," Harrison said. "Defensively, they got after us. Our first two possessions were turnovers, so we didn’t get off to a good start. It was the worst first half I have ever seen our guys play. Anything and everything went wrong."
While Harrison gives KIPP:Delta all of the credit, two other things could have affected Academics Plus’ performance. Because of construction, the bus ride to Helena took about three hours. Also, Harrison says the atmosphere was the worst he has ever experienced.
"Not the coaches and the players, but the fans said some very, very inappropriate things to me and my players," he said. "It was definitely a distraction."
The Falcons had a chance to get things back on track last night as they hosted North Little Rock Lisa Academy for homecoming. Because Lisa Academy is a younger program than Academics Plus, Harrison was expecting a win. After last night’s contest, the Falcons won’t play again until Tuesday. That gives Harrison some time to work on some things with his team.
"We are going to work on our toughness the next few days in practice," he said. "We aren’t physical enough. We are also going to work on the little things because we’ve had the lead in so many close games. We lack the experience in the close games and aren’t battle-tested. In the first half of the conference season, we played everyone close and some games came down to the last possession or two."