The Credo Men’s Basketball team entered Tuesday night having lost five out of their last six games. They were a team with low morale, playing like individuals instead of a team and needed something to spark them back on track. The Gryphon got exactly the result they needed against the Mustangs. Behind a 17-4 explosion in the first quarter, elite defense, rebounding and ball control, the Gryphon were victorious 45-30.
Maybe it was the buzz in the Rohnert Park Sports Center after the Credo women won their game or just a team that was due for a big-time performance. Whatever the reason, the Gryphon played like a team possessed Tuesday night and made the fans in attendance very happy.
Junior Tai Stopeck led the Gryphon in scoring with 22 points and made big baskets all night. Most of his key points came in the third quarter while the Mustangs were making a ferocious push. Junior guard Satchel Sevenau finished with 8 points on the night, all in the first half. Sevenau was one of the key ball handlers for the Gryphon and the junior captain made sure they were always calm and running the offense.
Though Stopeck and Sevenau were the stars, everyone who played for the Gryphon contributed to their victory. Whether it was defense, rebounding or just running hard, this was the type of team effort Head Coach Levi Lloyd wanted and he was very pleased with the performance after the game.
“I think tonight’s game was a great effort. We really came together tonight and showed that as a team we are really solid,” Lloyd said. “We had a couple guys step up who really led us through, but it was a really good team effort tonight.”
Lloyd also talked about the great nights from both Sevenau and Stopeck.
“Satchel is one of our captains, he leads by example and he made sure guys knew where they were supposed to be and what they were supposed to do,” Lloyd said. “Tai has been a big part of what we do all year, he’s a scorer, he’s aggressive to the basket, he’s athletic and really gets after it.’
Though certain players get the praise because of the number of points they scored, other players contributed for the Gryphon.
Some examples would be Nathaniel Merhav and Kai Guthrie. These are two of the Gryphon big men and they were tasked with defending the big ones for St. Vincent. The Mustangs’ big man, Tyler Pease, is about 6’4”, 230-plus pounds, so defending him wasn’t easy, but Merhav and Guthrie did a great job keeping him off the glass. Rory Morgan is 6’7” and even though he made 3 threes, the Gryphon didn’t allow him to get inside and dominate the game.
Two other players, Daniel Wong and Oliver Abrams, were also key contributors, without scoring many points. Wong and Abrams together with Sevenau were the three primary ball handlers for the Gryphon and helped them break the press, handle pressure and take good shots.
For a team who had lost five of six, this is the type of moral boost they were looking for to hopefully help them during their late season push. Lloyd was pretty blunt with his assessment of how big this game was.
“This was a huge game for us because we had to realize and remember that we can play with anybody, and in order for us to be successful we had to do it as a team,” Lloyd said. “The last couple of games we had a few hiccups, but I believed the guys bounced back really good, they really responded and came together tonight and did what they were supposed to do.”
Since the Mustangs have two massive players the Gryphon came in with a clear strategy; don’t give up offensive rebounds. For those in attendance, it was clear the Gryphon followed Coach Lloyd’s game plan, because Pease and Morgan had a limited impact on the glass for the Mustangs.
Another key strategic play for the Gryphon was the ball control offense they did in the fourth quarter. Similar to football where a team runs the ball when they are ahead, the Gryphon did this by passing in the fourth quarter. Lloyd instructed his team not to shoot until there was under five seconds on the shot clock. By doing this, the Gryphon were able to waste 35 seconds each time they had the ball and shortened the game.
The Gryphon have six games left in the regular season and sit 10-8 overall and 1-2 in league play. Friday’s home game against Geyserville will be an indicator of how big Tuesday night’s game was. If the Gryphon come out and play well again, it’s safe to say they turned the corner and returned to their early season form.
“Our morale is high,” Lloyd said. “We are really starting to believe again. We had a really good preseason and are now starting to get in the flow of league play.