Shepard got off to a slow start to begin 2020, and despite a strong push couldn’t completely recover from a woeful first quarter in a 61-52 loss to Lemont in a South Suburban Conference crossover.
In their first matchup of the New Year, the Astros were sluggish and out of sync early and fell behind 19-7 after one quarter. They scratched and clawed their way to within 42-41 after senior Ivan Valek hit from the field to begin the fourth quarter, but they ran out of gas and never got any closer as Lemont pulled away late.
The inconsistency Shepard displayed has been a season-long issue, and carries over from practices to games, said Astros coach Tony Chiuccariello.
“There’s times we have great practices and show attention to detail and focus and energy, and there are times we don’t have any if those, and you see it out on the floor,” Chiuccariello said. “You play as your practice.”
The Astros had a solid game plan when it came to attempting to stop the Indians, but failed to execute in the first quarter, when the game quickly looked like it was getting out of control.
“We knew every play they have drawn up, we know who can shoot, know what there trying to do – but we were just poor. We were late on rotations and they’d hit a shot.“Then our credit we battled back one possession at a time.”
In addition to solidifying on defense, the Astros’ offense got going by kicking the ball inside and working the offense from the post.
Shepard seemed overly anxious during a crucial stretch of plays early in the fourth quarter, after they had cut the deficit to one. With the chance to tie or take the lead, junior Antwain Harris missed the front end of a one-and-one. Lemont failed to score on its ensuing trip down the floor, but the Astros again failed to execute and turned the ball over.
The Indians went on a 10-0 run and were never threatened again.
Chiuccariello said guys trying to do too much undermined what had been a strong come-from-behind effort.
“I’m all for aggressiveness, but smart aggressiveness,” he said. “I’m all for looking down the floor and hitting that pass – if it’s the smart play, if it’s a high percentage pass, if you have the angle for it. We had opportunities (to tie or take the lead) twice and forced the issue twice. I said after that, ‘Relax, run the play.’
The Astros’ plan was to stretch the Indians defense then get the ball to the post, kick it back outside to stretch the defense, then go back inside.
“When we’re at our best the ball is moving upcourt by the pass, and in the half court moves without the dribble, but we weren’t basket-cutting or playing inside and out. We need to share the ball and move the ball; our best nights are when everyone’s touching the ball, otherwise we look lethargic.
The Astros are 6-7 and have lost four of their past five games. Chiuccariello has like what he has seen at times, particularly given the program lost their top eight players from last season, but says more consistency is necessary if the Astros want to finish strong as conference play kicks into high gear.
“We can be better,” he said. “You can see we’re improving, we’ve just got to be more consistent.”