As soon as the ball tipped into the air, I knew that this was going to be a challenging game for the Flagstaff Eagles who are built on size rather than speed.
The Peoria Panthers came out essentially playing a four-guard set with one medium sized forward for the entire game. The amount of speed that came from this lineup was unreal and seemed to hinder the Eagles endurance coming out of halftime.
The Peoria Panthers honestly reminded me of a high school version of the Phoenix Suns. Just as they sometimes use a three-guard set with Isaiah Thomas, Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. Obviously these are two totally different types of basketball, (professional and amateur) yet the ideals were very similar.
Even in my four-year career as a point guard at the high school level, I never ran into a lineup like that, so it was really interesting to see this in effect.
At the start of the third-quarter turnovers were abundant with the Eagles turning the ball over eight times due to the full-court press the Panthers were using. Going into half-time with a ten point deficit, the Panthers knew that they were going to have to do something to get back into the game.
“Their press defense was tough,” said junior guard Kaleb Sandevol. “That combined with their speed was hard. But we were able to hold our own.”
The scorekeeper and I immediately realized that on the Panther’s bench that no one was over 6’2, a problem that could be exposed from the Eagles if they used their size. Just from looking at the roster sheet, the Eagles have two players that reach a staggering 6’7 as juniors. At the start of the fourth-quarter it was a match of size vs. speed with the Eagles playing an abundant of their taller players while the Panthers again went small.
The Panthers won the battle of the fourth-quarter, pushing the game into overtime. But the lack of height came back to bite them when it mattered most.
With twenty-six seconds in the left in the quarter down 50-49, junior Brent Morrow took a shot from the baseline only to miss, but Sandoval jumped up over the smaller defender and put it back into the hoop for the game winning shot.
This just goes to show that no matter how much talent we may have, it can’t make up for a lack of height.