Amity did something tonight I didn’t think was possible: they played at a fast pace against a fast-paced team and won. Not only did they win; in spots, they dominated.
Here are some takeaways first for the victorious Warriors:
- If you’re looking for signs that this Amity team is different, that this is the group that can finally get it done after years, and years of coming up short, this game supplied many.
- First, the emergence of Logan Grove. The last two seasons he’s been the point-guard-in-waiting in a sense. He started last year, but he was at times flustered and perhaps a step behind, almost as though he hadn’t quite adjusted to the pace of a varsity game and the speed at which decisions had to be made. Tonight was Logan Grove‘s coming-out party. Point blank, Amity does not win tonight without him. His calmness against the press, his alertness with the ball finding open teammates, but most of all his presence on the rebounds despite his shorter stature—he was at times the shortest player on the floor. The intensity in which he played will put him on the all-state watchlist. Amity’s Achilles heel last season, and seemingly for the last three or four, has been ball security and handling pressure. Tonight, that seemed to instead be a strength in large part because of Grove‘s contributions.
- Issac Watcherson again had a career night. YC’s press at times flustered Amity but not for long. Once Keenan Graham or Logan Grove got the ball moving up the floor, the ball consistently found its way to Watcherson‘s hands in the corner and was promptly in the air and through the net. Amity had no problem scoring off the Tiger press in bunches, something Dayton could never do. Watcherson‘s presence on the defensive end contributed to an outlandishly low scoring output from Malachi Roberts, and his presence in the passing lanes was felt yet again.
- Keenan Graham… what can you say. The 2-2-1 press the Tigers employed seemed helpless against the senior forward’s poise and length. The turnovers generated in the backcourt, a staple of the Tiger press, just weren’t there. The movement of the ball up the floor by Graham, Grove, and Hatch was arguably the most impressive feat of the night not just because of the opponent, but because it was a skill the program as a whole had lacked seemingly since it’s emergence as a state-wide power. It is also safe to say that Keenan Graham is one of the top five offensive rebounders 4A-2A. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that a state champion high jumper is good at rebounding, but the pure volume and presence of his work separates him from the pack.
- But the most consequential thing that came out of the game tonight was the showing by Amity‘s depth players. For ten minutes of game time, the final three minutes and a half of the second quarter and initial six and a half of the third, Amity did not forfeit their lead. Ten minutes without their star, ten minutes without the first or second best player in the state, ten minutes without the 6-foot-7 intimidator, and Amity barely forfeited any of their advantage.
- The depth, poise, and beating championship-level teams at their own game in their own dome… this team is different. This team looks like a championship team.
Now for the Tigers:
- There is no reason to sulk or panic. Despite everything Amity did, despite the heroics of Watcherson, Grove, Graham, and Hatch, you had a chance to send it to overtime at the buzzer, which is not a bad spot to be in, all things considered. A lot of things can and probably will go differently next time these teams face each other, but one is more important than the others:
- Malachi Seely-Roberts will not have such a cold shooting performance again. His range is too deep, his shooting stroke too refined, and his I.Q. too high to have another night like this against Amity. Yes, Watcherson, Hatch, Wart, and Graham all did stand-up jobs against him, but it’s hard to see another single-digit output from the sophomore star next time around.
- That alone should put the Tigers in a good spot going into their next matchup in the sweltering temperatures of the Amity Box. But the better understanding of how the Tigers line up against certain players Amity has, how to better contain the Warrior press break without forfeiting transition three’s to Watcherson, and how to better attack Amity’s length should bring with it adjustments that will change the circumstances of this matchup. YC did enough tonight to win, but the ball simply did not roll their way in certain situations. The proof of this is best exemplified by Josh Wart only scoring 6—yes, 6—points. There’s a blueprint here and not much to break down other than to roll out the ball again and take another whack at it.
Truly, both these teams are contenders. Cascade Christian aside, they may be the two frontrunners.