Tonight’s boys basketball game between Pine Bluff and Watson Chapel features two teams that are still trying to work out all the kinks out.
Both teams currently sit at 3-3 and both are struggling to find some consistency.
“We have a lot of inexperienced guys,” Watson Chapel head coach Matt Busch said. “We lost three starters this season, which accounted for about 90 percent of our scoring. We are little inexperienced.”
Busch said while he is playing mostly juniors and seniors, they didn’t get a lot of playing time last year.
“We are just getting to know ourselves as a basketball team,” Busch said.
On Friday, the Wildcats beat Little Rock Catholic 63-60 but lost Saturday to Paragould. Tevin Brown leads the team, averaging 11 points a game. Benjamin Marcus averages nine points and leads the team with six rebounds a game.
“I think this team is going to be a late bloomer,” Busch said. “But it has been kind of fun to watch them progress. This thing will come full circle in January.”
Last season, the Wildcats finished third in the conference with a 16-13 overall record and 8-6 in conference play.
On the other side of the ball, Pine Bluff is without head coach Ronald Moragne, who is sitting out this season after suffering a major illness this summer. Assistant coach Carl Smith is stepping in as interim head coach.
There is currently no word on whether Moragne will return.
For the last two games, Pine Bluff has been integrating football players such as Rickey Clements and Tyrone Payne back into their system. Smith said, so far, their ability to quickly adapt to the basketball court has been the biggest surprise.
“I thought it would take them longer than two games and one and a half practices,” They are coming out and doing a good job.
“That is kind of surprising.”
Clements scored 31 points against Conway and Payne chipped in with 15 points. Against Jacksonville, in which the Zebras lost 68-54, Clements scored 10 and Payne had 13.
Smith said Darrian Kee has been doing a job so far this season, but has been slowed down from a calf injury. Kee scored seven points against Jacksonville.
Smith also said a nice surprise this season has been the young guys coming up.
“The freshman coming in and helping our some quality players,” Smith said. “They have helped out and our outlook is pretty good.”
For Watson Chapel, Busch said the biggest surprise so far has been the play of senior Charles Owen. Only a junior varsity player last season, Owen has really improved over the summer, bumping his point average to about 7.6 per game.
“There was a time where I didn’t know if he would be a varsity player,” Busch said. “But he has become our spark plug. He is definitely the biggest surprise of the year.”
Still, Watson Chapel is struggling offensively, shooting just 25 percent from the three-pointer and fifty percent from the free throw line.
Busch is hoping to continue his winning ways against Pine Bluff, after he beat them last season.
“My first year, I was lucky enough to get that win,” Busch said. “I’m hoping to start a new tradition, where we try to win that game every year.”
But for Watson Chapel that is not going to be an easy task.
“They are long and athletic,” Busch said. “They have some shooters and they return a lot from last year.”
Busch said the goal is to keep them from making big runs, keep them off the boards and hold them to about 40 or 50 points by the end of the game.
“They are two to three inches taller than us,” Busch said. “We’ve got a lot of small guards and speed can help us.
“They definitely have the size advantage, so it is going to come down to size versus speed.”
Last year, Pine Bluff lost in the quarterfinals to Little Rock Parkview in the state playoffs after finishing the season 17-8 and the No. 2 seed in the 6A-South. Smith hopes tonight’s game will be the start of a good run.
“We want to keep pressure on the ball and run when we can,” Smith said. “We always got to rebound and box and rebound well.
“That’s help a lot.”
Tonight’s game will follow the girls varsity basketball game at Pine Bluff High School.