NEW BRITAIN - Five games into the season for Innovation boys basketball and the team is yet to put forth a complete game.
The Ravens are 1-4 after a 44-point loss at home to Capital Prep on Tuesday night, which fell apart after halftime when they were outscored 28-2 in the third quarter. Innovation trailed by 12 at the start of the quarter, but after only adding two free throws over the ensuing eight minutes, the deficit grew to 38.
Capital Prep was playing its first game since Dec. 21 and did not open the game at full strength as it readjusted to playing a live varsity game. While still facing a talent and size disadvantage, the Ravens’ defense was much more effective than later in the game and they had more success moving the ball against the Trailblazers’ defense.
Struggling to hone in on how they want to play, Innovation was no match for Capital Prep’s best effort. Without a go-to scorer to rely on they will quickly have to find an identity that maximizes their strengths to start adding wins to their record.
“I feel like we’ve been a very inconsistent team and you could see it between the first half and the second half,” Innovation head coach Matt Lance said. “We have a tough time when teams kind of punch us in the face, we don’t have a response. We really have a tough time responding to when teams get on us and it’s been like that all five games so far.”
Despite having five seniors on the roster, the Ravens still lack varsity experience and will look to find the style of play that works best for them over the next 15 games. One of the keys will be to stop teams building lengthy runs against them.
Each of Innovations losses came by at least 21 points with the 44-point deficit to Capital Prep being the team’s second loss by a margin of that size. Capital Prep scored the first 19 points of the third quarter as the Ravens had no answer for anything their opponents did.
While it takes time to develop a style of play and get players to mesh, Lance wants to take advantage of his team’s length whenever possible to control games with their rebounding and defense. While it will find ways to score effectively as a team, Innovation needs to establish itself as a hustle-first team in order to start having more success.
“There’s so many guys still in new roles that I think guys are having a hard time figuring what is [their] role on this team,” Lance said. “Does it take a little bit of time to build an identity, absolutely. What am I looking at as a coach, with our length, I think we should be really good on the backboards. We have some teams with size in our league, but I feel like we should be good on the backboards both offensively and defensively.”
The Ravens showed glimpses of how well they can rebound and play defense in the first half against the Trailblazers. Innovation’s zone defense made it difficult for Capital Prep to move the ball inside and they did a good job of double-teaming opposing players when they got the ball in the paint.
While the Ravens failed to sustain these levels of play, showing they were capable of playing that well against one of the toughest teams they will see all season is a promising sign moving forward.
“I thought the first half was probably the best team communication we’ve had running that zone [defense],” Lance said. “I thought towards the end of the first half was probably the best we’ve boxed out, [and] against the biggest team. It’s there in glimpses, it’s there in snippets, but the struggle is we just can’t put that together for 32 minutes right now. It was a solid 16 minutes, but that’s not good enough.”
One of the most competitive teams in the Capitol Region Athletic League in recent years, Innovation will try to clean up its performance and build a brand of play it can win games with. The team will need to learn from its previous mistakes and figure out how to maintain a level of consistency it has not been able to so far in its games.
“I feel like that length should be able to disrupt a lot of things defensively,” Lance said. “We’re going to have to get better and build our identity [around] being a defensive team first. The offense will continue to improve, but until we can take care of things on the defensive side of the ball and limit those turnovers. We have to realize if we get into a scoring battle with teams, it’s going to be tough. We’re going to have to be a grind-it-out type of team and we just have to keep working.”
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org