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Barons to focus on defense / November 27, 2019

The Bluestone varsity boys basketball team held its final pre-season scrimmage on Friday night against Sussex Central High School, and though the scoring was low through three quarters, the Baron defense was strong enough to keep the tally at 29-28 in Sussex’s favor as the workout ended.

Michael Harris paced Bluestone on offense with 13 points. Harris was five-of-eight on two-pointers and shot one-of-three from the arc.

Bluestone posted nine points in each of the first two quarters and finished with a 10-point third quarter. The Tigers shot for 11, 12 and six points in the quarters, respectively.

It was defense that kept Bluestone in the game, and coach George Lancaster acknowledged the point. He added that coaches are always looking for improvement, no matter how well a team is playing.

“I don’t believe any coach is ever satisfied,” Lancaster said. “But I think the potential for progress is there, I really like the way the kids play hard particularly on defense. I think defense will be our mantra again.”

Lancaster noted that he is very appreciative of Bluestone basketball fans and understands them wanting to see exciting plays and courtside spectacles. But it’s the fundamentals that win out over time — good defense being one of those, Lancaster said.

“A lot of times the fans want excitement, but excitement only goes so far,” Lancaster explained. “You know old basic fundamentals will take you a lot further down the road and the kids are beginning to understand that. It takes them awhile.”

As the team learns the pressure defense Lancaster teaches, he believes they will put up points on the scoreboard. After the loss of almost 10 players to graduation, this team now is trying to define its own path.

“Well, as you know we lost nine players from last year’s team and our senior leadership, the four kids that we started - Larry (Bullock), Datrione (Shearin), Mike (Harris) and Tywin (Hatcher) — we started that way [this season] but certainly we are looking to some play off the bench.

“Kwamel Mayo who had been injured looks like he’ll be able to help us some; Xavier Sturdifen is a solid individual and he’s grown a lot, so we’re looking for those juniors to help us.

“We’re building chemistry, we’re practicing — or I’ll say rehearsing — and it takes a while to do that all things aside. But perhaps the defense will carry us a while until we get there on our offensive end.”

Bluestone only has two weeks of practice under their belts right now, including two scrimmages. The varsity team this season leans on the young side. Between the varsity and jayvee programs, Bluestone has nine freshman, seven sophomores, seven juniors and four seniors in the program.

Lancaster hasn’t determined the final roster of either the jayvee or varsity team. Some sophomores will be moving back and forth between the two squads throughout the season.

“We have not trimmed the team down yet,” Lancaster said. “We really want to get 12 kids on varsity on the roster and then we want to 12 jayvee players and some of those will flip up and down.”

Lancaster believes team chemistry will come more easily as he and his assistant coaches Louis Duncan and Steve Whitten are coaching both the varsity and jayvee squads. He said he has enjoyed adding Duncan to the staff and sees it as a way of training the next generation of coaches.

Lancaster is working to build his players’ skill levels to give them the best chance to be successful in regular season play. Bluestone opens the James River District schedule at home on Dec. 3 versus Central Lunenburg.

“We’re not going to score a lot of points because we don’t play that way but play within the confines of their aptitude,” Lancaster added. “Those kids hustle but we’re not going to shoot big threes on you, or go behind the back or between the legs on making big passes for the dunks. That’s not who we are.

“But we’re still going to have some fun,” Lancaster said. “Once we get the pressure defense down correctly, we should be able to get some transitional baskets. We’re better free-throw shooters than the team last year started out. We’re pretty good and if we shoot good next Tuesday, we should be okay.”

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