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Central A&M boys basketball getting back into gear

Central A&M boys basketball getting back into gear

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MACON — Rob Smith generally likes to let his team flow freely during a basketball game. He's a believer in letting his players play through things without a lot of barking from the sidelines. Practice is the place for such commands from afar.

But three games into the basketball season, Smith, Central A&M's boys basketball coach, had to make an exception. Not because his team needs additional barking or commands. The core of this Central A&M team has played together since they could dribble a basketball and they've been in back-to-back super-sectionals and finished in third place in Class 1A last season.

The No. 1-ranked Raiders (3-0) left the first round of the Macon County Tournament on Monday after a 92-25 win over Sangamon Valley with as many games played (three) as practices (three). Things are accelerated and Smith has to coach games like he would if they were practice.

“That’s hard in a game, in competition, to coach kids that hard," Smith said. "I’m more of a: Coach them hard in practice and leave them alone in games. That’s ideal because you want them to play free of mind in games, but we have had to kind of adjust that and maybe put a play in that we ran last year and say and have a practice and say, ‘Hey, you remember this.’"

Smith has to be more engaged on the sidelines because his team simply hasn't had much time together on the basketball court in the last few months. Such is a problem for small schools when the football team goes to the Class 1A state finals and basketball is delayed until the postseason run comes to an end — in this case, on Nov. 29 at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb.

But the chemistry and familiarity between the players helps. This isn't A&M's first rodeo. Sure, there are some football legs and an adjustment back to basketball, but it's hardly been showing.

“It feels like we’re just picking back up where we left off last year," said senior Griffin Andricks, who wasn't on the football team. "If we hadn’t been like this the last few years, it would be a lot different because you wouldn’t have the team chemistry or know the plays and everything."

Senior Connor Heaton says the transition back to basketball is going smoothly. There's some more coaching and a few new pieces to get used to, but it's largely the same group that has bull-rushed the postseason for two years.

“That’s a huge thing," Heaton said. "We just play so good together. We know what other guys can do and what other guys can’t do and we just try to emphasize on the good things they can do and play together."

The Raiders forced turnovers on Monday, spread the ball around and used a balanced scoring game on the way to a 92-25 win over Sangamon Valley on Mondayh in the first game of the Macon County Tournament.

Heaton had 25 points and 13 rebounds to go with 20 points and 16 rebounds from Griffin Andricks. Brycen Burgener scored 15 points — on four 3-pointers — and Jacob Paradee was a catalyst in forcing 29 Sangamon Valley (1-7) turnovers.

Central A&M led 24-5 after the first quarter, 45-11 at halftime and 76-16 after three quarters. The Raiders will play Warrensburg-Latham on Thursday in the tournament semifinals. 

Monday was the third live gig of the season, but Andricks is happy to have the band back together. Those early practices with only a few players aren't ideal.

“I really like having them all back," Andricks said. "It kind of sucked, we had 6 a.m. practices with seven people, but we couldn’t really do much. It’s really good to have them all back on the team so we can really get back in the flow of things."


PHOTOS: Lena-Winslow beats Central A&M in Class 1A football state championship

Contact Joey Wagner at (217) 421-6970. Follow him on Twitter: @mrwagner25

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