Sunday, January 1, 2012

Holiday Tournament title slips away from Hobbs, still silver lining

Kimberly Ryan/News-Sun
Hobbs' Greg Brooks looks for a teammate
during Hobbs' loss to Lawton on Friday.
  I'm sure the Hobbs players, coaches and nearly 3,000 Eagle fans that provided an electric atmosphere at Tasker Arena on Friday night could almost taste Hobbs winning its own tournament for the first time in 2008.
  However, Hobbs let a second-half lead slip by missing makeable shots, getting passive and turning it over too much as Lawton, Okla., bounced back and won the 54th Annual Hobbs Holiday Tournament 89-83 to become the first Oklahoma school to win this event.
  Don't get me wrong, Lawton did plenty to win this game. The trio of Delvonte Pierre, Dalvin Henderson and Tevin Foster were tough to slow down as the trio scored 77 of Lawton's 89 points.
  But this was a game the Eagles could've had.
  All the momentum was going the Eagles' way for much of the first two-plus quarters as Hobbs built a 50-40 lead midway through the third.
  But all the things the Eagles were doing well to build the lead – making good decisions, aggressiveness with their shot selections, pressuring defense – slowly faded away. Hobbs played not to lose instead of going for the win.
  Turnovers, a lack of rebounding (Hobbs allowed 16 offensive rebounds, most leading to second-chance points for Lawton) and tentativeness led to Hobbs falling just short of its goal of winning the tournament despite 34 points from Aaron Ibarra (who scored 79 points in the three-game tournament, seventh most by a Hobbs player in one Holiday Tournament).
  While the loss is going to sting for a few days, this loss isn't devoid of a silver lining.
  The Eagles haven't played in a game like this in an atmosphere like Friday's in awhile. The little experience Hobbs had returning from last season played on a team that saw the Eagles go 12-17 – the most losses for the Eagle program since before Ralph Tasker took over as head coach in 1949.
  Sure, Hobbs needs to learn to win these close contests but it also has to gain experience in playing in them.
  Hobbs will start to win these games, especially with the help that is on the way and the improvement of players on the team right now.
  The Eagles start 2012 at 9-4 and will have 6-foot-3 junior Earl Woods on the court when Hobbs travels to play Seminole on Thursday. Woods should give Hobbs help in the paint and in the press with his long arms and athleticism. Hobbs soccer stand-out Hunter Jecius, a 6-foot-3 senior, is also close to playing. His athleticism and smarts will be an asset for the Eagles.
  A wild card that could help Hobbs down the road who may get eligible by the end of the season is junior Adrian Brown. If he becomes eligible, it gives Hobbs another explosive player that could take the Eagles to another level.
  Combine those guys with top scorers Ibarra, Dane Pannell, Austin Montoya and Andrew Barrientes, defensive stopper Jesus Rodriguez and the emergence of sophomore Devante Brown (who had 10 points in limited time in the Holiday Tourney final) along with others such as Adrian Sanchez off the bench, the Eagles could make some noise once district play and the postseason comes around.
  For Hobbs fans, the excitement should be that this Eagles squad that nearly beat a very good and undefeated Lawton team is far from a finished product and the best is probably yet to come.