MILLER GROVE — Playing a taller team doesn’t really concern Miller Grove head basketball Gary Billingsley.
Billingsley’s Hornets take on Karnack at 7 p.m. Friday in the Class 1A area boys basketball playoffs at Big Sandy High School.
“I know on paper, it looks bad for us. They have a back line of one 6-foot-4 and two 6-foot-3 guys and we just have one player 6-foot,” Billingsley said with laugh. “But we have done a good job blocking out all year, I am not worried about getting rebounds.”
“We’re strong for our size and we play very hard,” the coach said. “We plan on using their aggressiveness against them. But we have played good teams like Avery, Martins Mills and we think we will react well to a matchup with Karnack.”
Probable starters for Miller Grove include:
Andrew Steele, 5-11, soph. guard
Aaron Baylus, 6-0, jr., post
Cayle Watson, 5-8, soph. point guard
Seth Roberts, 6-0, jr. forward/guard
Tim Heijligers, 5-11, soph. guard
Top scoring averages belong to steele and Baylus who put in 15 a game, the pair are also the top rebounders on the team.
Miller Grove has been successful in recent years with Billingsley posting his third 20-win season in four years. The Hornets won the District 22-1A district hoop title earning a bye.
Karnack, runner-up in 23-1A, beat Wells 52-48 in bi-district competition.
In warm-up action the Hornets defeated Graford, 52-50.
“We were down 10-0 in the first quarter and did not play well to start the warm-up game,” Billingsley said. “We came back and won it, but I think we learned about playing a good team. Graford went to the state tournament last year and they have an all-state guard. It did us good to play them.”
The coach said that this year’s Miller Grove team is not entering the playoffs with the same nervous anticipation last year’s squad did.
“We were playing Avinger and we had heard about them. We were scared,” Billingsley said. “This year we have played a tougher schedule to get ready for this time of year. We have only lost two games since Jan. 4 so we feel like we are playing pretty well.”
The coach said what concerns him about the game is his team’s ability to take care of the basketball.
Miller Grove runs a motion offense and man-to-man defense, but at times the Hornets don’t value the basketball like they should.
“If we make mistakes or turnovers when we are attacking the goal, then we can live with that. But we can’t afford turnovers which lead to Karnack getting easy buckets,” Billingsley said. “We can’t give up lay-ups to the other team. We have to make them work for points.”
Billingsley said the patience his team plays with could also be a key to the game.
“Karnack is not real structured offensively, the first open shot they see they take,” Billingsley said. “We can take advantage of that. We plan on working our offense and getting a good shot. We can’t settle for jump shots. Teams in the playoffs that shoot a lot of jump shots don’t last long.”
The Indians would like to make the game a track meet and score 60 points or more. Bad news for the Hornets who averaging 53 points a game.
“If the game is in the 60s we will probably get beat,” Billingsley admited. “Karnack can score d a lot of points. We watched one video where they were down 17 and then came back and cut into the lead very quickly.”
Miller Grove will try to get the lead using their steady shooting. For the year they hit 50 percent of all two point field goals and 30 percent of 3-pointers.
“Karnack plays a 2-3 zone, we need to get them to extend the zone and we can find some hmismatches,” Billingsley said. “We do a good job with our half court offense. We have to read the defense and make good decisions.”
Karnack or Miller Grove will play Laneville/Roxton winner in the next round. Laneville is the defending 1A, Division II state champions.
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