The Warriors hailing from Charlotte, North Carolina spread the floor and called their motion plays, but it was the motions of the Fighting Irish that brought the crowd to their feet in the end.
With two wind-mill slams from Miles Bridges (one a jaw-dropping 360), 12 other dunks, great pressure defense and three point shooting, Huntington Prep moved to 2-0 on the season, defeating the Charlotte United Christian Academy 117-69.
Leading the Irish to victory was junior guard Onuralp Bitim with 21 points, senior guard Curtis Jones with 19, senior forward Miles Bridges with 19 as well and senior guard Ivan Gandia with 10.
“I liked our energy and effort,” Huntington Prep head coach Arkell Bruce said. “We got the win so I’m happy.”
“I think we played very well tonight,” Bitim said. “We’re playing like a real team and I think we’ll be even better soon because we want to be champions this year.”
“That was a good team,” senior guard Ivan Gandia said. “It was a good game for the second unit to get more team chemistry going and it was a good team-win overall.”
The Warriors did everything they could, but 5-4 at 6:46 in the first quarter was the closest deficit of the night. Coach Bruce saw a minor flaw in his team, called a timeout at that mark and Huntington Prep took off from there.
In just six minutes, the lead grew to 32-11 to end the first quarter. The Irish finished the second half with a 70-33 lead through numerous on-ball steals, cross court passes and speed that made two or three Warriors commit to a penetrating ball-handler.
Complacency never entered the mind through Prep at any point of the game. The Irish played hard until the very end and only surrendered a 7-2 run in the fourth quarter after the third-string entered the game.
“In practice we always tell them to pay attention to detail,” Bruce said. “Detail, detail, detail; it’s the little things. We say this so in a game, when those little things aren’t carrying over from practice, it’ll make a big difference.”
“We’re always looking for improvement,” sophomore guard Jonathan Kabongo said. “You always want to look at where you can get better, and then get better at it every day.”
At 3:43 in the second quarter, Bridges stole the ball from the point guard at mid-court, claimed possession in the scramble and passed it to a running Curtis Jones who threw it down with his head above the rim at peak flight.
The six-foot-five, senior point guard finished the first half with 19 points and was at the center of nearly every fast break.
“We’ve been working on the flow of our offense,” Jones said. “The flow of the offense really helps us get open shots. It puts us in places where you can go by the defender and spread the floor.”
Now, the Warriors spread the ball as well, but the Fighting Irish don’t call, “motion”, and simply read and recognize.
“We try not to call plays,” Jones said. “It’s all reads. We read the defender, so if they see us cutting backdoor, don’t run, come get the ball and go through the pick and roll. There’s a lot of stuff that goes with it. There are a lot of reads.”
Outscoring the Warriors 47-36, the second and third units held their own after half time to cap the Irish’s second win of the season. However, it wasn’t like the 70-33 first half, meaning there’s still some wiggle room for improvement.
“We’re still working on knowing each other,” said Gandia. “We’re trying to get each other’s moves down with the second unit being new.”
“I think we can get better defensively,” Kabongo said. “We could also use more patience on offense. With those two things, we can make leads a lot bigger.”
“We need to improve defensively as a whole,” Bruce said.
Huntington Prep will play Redemption Christian Academy (Troy, NY) on Sunday, and fans should flock to the game because in the words of Onuralp Bitim:
“This is just the beginning,” said Bitim.