By ANDREW JOHNSON
All teams aim to get off to a solid start because early-season victories increase team confidence and chemistry and set the tone for the rest of the season. However, whether it be tough scheduling, inexperience or unlucky breaks and close calls, a team does not always get off to a good start. A truly great team is one that is capable of fighting through early-season adversity and ultimately finding success. Only four games into their 2015-16 season, the Jays men’s basketball team sits at 1-3 after dropping their Centennial Conference opener on the road to Gettysburg College on Nov. 24. However, these players know that championships are not won in the beginning of the season, and plenty of time remains to get things back on track.
The Jays were downed by an 83-70 margin in what can only be seen as a contest of polarizing scoring runs by both sides. Basketball is a game of momentum, where an offensive spark can stretch a lead to double digits within a few possessions or evaporate it all the same. On the strength of early 18-5 and 14-3 runs to open the contest, the Bullets raced out to a commanding 38-16 lead with only four minutes remaining in the half.
Down by a wide margin early, many teams would have packed it in and lost their resolve, resigned to the outcome of the contest. But these Jays battled back, cutting the lead to 40-24 at the break and emerging from halftime with a newfound spark and intensity.
A 19-4 run over the first eight minutes of the second half saw the Jays roar back to within three since the Bullets’ lead had dwindled to 51-48 with 11:45 remaining in the game. Much of this rally was sparked by offensive display put on by standout sophomore forward Kyle Doran, who led Hopkins with 20 points that evening, a new career high. Fourteen of these 20 points occurred during the game-altering run, in which Doran accounted for 14 of the Jays’s 19 points.
The Bullets had a scoring dynamo this afternoon as well in the form of sophomore forward Cody Kiefer, who scored a game-high 34 points for the Bullets. He paced a 13-4 run which stretched the Bullets’s lead back into double digits again. But Hopkins was not finished just yet. Senior guard Austin Vasiliadis did not let the Jays go quietly, as he scored 6 straight points for the Jays to cut the deficit to only 5 in the waning minutes.
However, the Bullets reasserted their command and widened the margin over the final few minutes to preserve their victory.
Statistical standouts for the Jays included Doran, who connected four of six three-pointers to outpace all Hopkins scorers. Vasiliadis pitched in 16 points, six assists and four steals of his own, and his 245 career assists now rank sixth in program history. Senior forward Matt Billups offered a strong effort, pitching in eight points and six boards. When asked to discuss how the team can improve as they head into the rest of their campaign, Vasiliadis said that the squad just needs to focus on the little things and not get distracted.
“I think this team is very talented and can accomplish a lot if we set our mind to it,” he said, “we just need to have maximum intensity in practice, really focus on our fundamentals and take it one game at a time. Our goal is obviously to compete for a Conference title and qualify for the playoffs, and I think we are certainly capable.”
The Jays will take the court again this Thursday, Dec. 3, when they travel to Collegeville, Pa. to take on Ursinus College.