No one pointed fingers following the Harrison High School boys basketball team’s 47-33 loss Tuesday to Palmer at Butch Thorpe Gymnasium.
Players and coaches succinctly described how the team could improve following their second consecutive defeat.
After listening to their suggestions, Kaiser ensured players knew this loss, nor the previous one to Pueblo East on Jan. 30 wasn’t their fault.
“I have to coach better,” he said. “I have to put them in better situations. I have to figure out our rotations. It starts with me and I have to coach and be better.”
The Panthers dropped consecutive games for the first time since Feb. 15-Feb. 21, 2018. In back-to-back contests, Class 4A’s No. 14-ranked Panthers also had their lowest output since Dec. 10, 2018, when they scored 37 against Thomas Jefferson.
Both Harrison (1-2 overall, 0-1 Colorado Springs Metro League) and Palmer (2-1, 1-0) struggled to get the ball in the cup in the first half.
After the Terrors built an 11-8 lead in the first quarter, both teams mustered just 11 points in the second and entered the break tied at 15-15.
Palmer coach Jimmy Grantz chuckled at the mention of the halftime score – recognizing the low total for both squads. Grantz and the Terrors coaching staff also realized they needed to adapt to win.
The Terrors switched from man-to-man defense in the first half to a 2-3 zone in the second to improve scoring and keep their players on the court.
“Our big guys were in a little bit of foul trouble,” Grantz said. “Xavier VanDemark-Conway had three fouls, Melvin Saffold III had two (fouls) and Jaylean Robinson had a couple. Harrison is quick off the dribble and we wanted to contain that to make them have to shoot it from the outside. We went small and had Kolben (Barney) be our (center).”
Barney scored 7 points in the first half for the Terrors and added 7 more in the third quarter to finish with a game-high 14 points.
The switch on defense also benefitted Palmer as the Terrors totaled 22 in the third quarter. Palmer closed the frame with a 30-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer from Jaiden Flowers, which built their lead to 37-24 heading to the fourth.
“(Harrison) is a big driving team so we felt like a zone could help us a lot,” Barney said. “Zone was a better fit for us. We didn’t want it to be 15-15, we want it to get into the 30s or 40s at halftime. We thought the zone would be ideal to keep their score low and boost ours.”
Kaiser reiterated his need to put the team in better position for success. Harrison finished the game 13-of-50 from the field and scored 18 second-half points. He expects that to improve as the season progresses.
“We have to work and practice against [the zone] even more than we have,” Kaiser said. “We have to prepare for what teams are going to do because every team has a strength and every team has an improvement area.”
What does Kaiser feel is the Panthers’ improvement area?
“Just more experience together,” he said. “We just have to get out and play together and, of course, that comes with time. I’ve loved the effort I’ve seen from them in the first three games. I love the effort on defense and I love their effort playing for each other.”
For the Terrors, their 22-point showing in the third and 32-point second half is what Grantz expects from his crew throughout the year.
“In the second half, our mentality was more about attacking – we weren’t as aggressive as I thought we should be [in the first half],” Grantz said. “In the second half we saw the fruits of being aggressive. We have five or six guys who can drive and make good reads. Jaiden Flowers has been cold so far this year but he’s starting to warm up and can really stretch the floor.
“We have versatility, we just have to start thinking about being aggressive and doing that the entire game.”
The Panthers had eight players score including a team-high 9 from Jordan Davis-Voss. Kahli Dotison and Kenny Jones each finished with 5 points. Donovan Sterling added 4 and Jesus Alvarado had 3. Jamison Taylor, Terence Richey and Kahar Briggs each had 2 and Jaseim Mitchell finished with 1 point.