Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Champions' Dynamic Duo!

On November 23, 2009, I wrote "Boerne Champion is underrated!" . They are no longer such as the new EN Top 10 Rankings have them catapulting from being not ranked to #5 in the city. That is what happens when you beat Steele convincingly on their own court. Champions' success is no surprise to those that took time to see their dynamic duo; Hilary Lumpkin and JOHNATHAN TATE!

I took a poll of local teams and their dynamic duos. In that poll, I grouped Lumpkin with Paige Grandjean. While Grandjean is a good player, it is her coach that compliments Lumpkin. The same way Jay's coach Mike Floyd lets his star, Erica Donovan, shine or Wagners coach Tina Camacho puts the fate of her team in the hands of her star, Len'Nique Brown, Johnathan Tate's offense lives and dies with Hillary Lumpkin. Last night against Steele, she not only lived but did so at the expense of the two time state semifinalists.

Lumpkin is not your traditional point guard. She rarely dribbles with her left hand and frequently has her head down while dribbling. Her jump shot is not text book by any means. It has a hitch in it that defies the conventional wisdom of shooting. She has the confidence(or lack of focus to naysayers) to do a little dance while laughing immediately before tip off and throughout the game. Her neon colored shoes are as loud as her heckling mother in the crowd. All these quirky things leaves one to underestimate Lumpkin. That is until the game starts! Try these numbers:

vs. Jay(then ranked #1 in city)- 10 points and 3 assists in a low scoring close loss 44-38

vs. Stevens( then ranked in the city)- 10 and 3 assists in a low scoring win- 49-37

vs New Braunfels(ranked #4 in city) 18 and 4 assists in close loss 49-45

vs Madison- 18 points on 12 shots a blowout win

vs Roosevelt(then ranked in the city) 5 points and 7 assists in a snail paced loss 33-28

vs Reagan(then ranked in the city) 11 points 5 assists in a close loss 46-43

These numbers are not gaudy but do illustrate that fact Lumpkin PRODUCES. The above mentioned teams are either highly ranked or led by Division 1 bound stars. Last night's game was her most impressive thus far. Lumpkin faced three Division 1 caliber guards and did not blink an eye. She faced a full court press featuring one of the best on-ball defenders in the city in Southern Illinois bound, Olivia Patterson, one of the best and quickest young guards in the city in Elena Gumbs and the female version of Usain Bolt in the Tennessee bound, Meighan Simmons. All Lumpkin did was go out and handle the ball 90% of the time while scoring 20 points against this pressure, all while leading her team to a win in hostile territory. If the city had relay races featuring the back courts of girls basketball teams, Steele would smoke everybody. They are that fast! However, this track speed athleticism did not stop Lumpkin from LIVING in the paint. Steele could NOT stay in front of her. She broke down defenders and "Steve Nashed" the defense repeatedly. Like Nash, Lumpkin does a great job of penetrating and stride stopping while establishing her outside foot as her pivot foot. She then uses the defenders momentum against them as she pivots away from pressure for an easy score. It is a great tool to have when playing against athletic defenders and Nash has made a living using the move. Lumpkin used it to perfection and her D'Antoni enjoyed every minute.

Like Mike D'Antoni, Johnathan Tate has a system. His system is tough to guard. I first mentioned his version of the Dribble Drive Motion after watching his team use it to beat a very athletic Roosevelt team with it last season. His DDM offense and his scheduling MUST be respected. Here are some facts:

-Champion has played 8 games against teams that have been ranked in the Top 10 in the city at some point this year( Stevens, Jay, Marshall, New Braunfels, Reagan, Clemens, Steele, Roosevelt)

- Champion is 18-8. Their 8 losses have come by a combine total of 31 points

- Their largest margin of defeat came at the hands of a very good Jay team by 6 points

The DDM is a headache to guard if a couple things are happening; the defense is playing man and three point shots are falling. Both things were happening last night against Steele.

A side note:

( I must salute Steele coach, Kari Wallace for sticking with her man defense the majority of the game. A zone would have help contain dribble penetration but her PLAYERS GOT BETTER last night defensively. She is undoubtedly trying to prepare them for the next level. Olivia Patterson and Meighan Simmons will have to guard VERY GOOD players next season at their respective schools and Wallace allowed them to work on that last night. Elena Gumbs is playing for one of the top club teams in the state next summer and will face some of the best guards in the nation. She too got better last night. )

Back to the topic, I sat in a section of sideline coaches who yelled out instructions of ways to guard the DDM. They assumed that the weave(circle back) action of the offense is so easily stopped. If that was the case, UTSA should have been blown out by Baylor instead of taking them down to the wire in OT of the NCAA tournament last year. When the three ball is falling, how do you defend it?

1. Switch- You can switch continuously on the circle back motions but this allows for eventual mismatches.

2. Fight over Top of Screens- This is what Steele tried to do but it is difficult because of the screening action of the ball handler. Proper spacing also makes this difficult.

3. Fight under the Screen- This may be a good strategy assuming that the three ball is not falling. If the three is falling, going under the screening action is futile as this would lead to uncontested three point shots.

4. Deny/Overplay/Chuck Cutters- This strategy would lead to numerous back door opportunities.

5. Solid Help Side Defense- Probably one of the best ways to guard it but leaves teams susceptible to giving up open threes with the skip pass.

Simply put, this is a difficult offense to guard when executed well. I heard a dad say," They only run one play". That is the beauty of the offense. IT IS NOT A PLAY!!! It is a continuous motion offense that LETS THE KIDS PLAY!!! Coach Tate has put his ego aside and let his kids go. Better yet, he understands that Lumpkin is at her best when she is uninhibited by traditional sets, so he allows his eccentric point guard to create. Together, they are are force to be reckoned with.