JEFFERSON CITY – The Hickman boys basketball team lives on speed.
The Kewpies (20-2) take no time to ease into the pace of any game, often coming out in a full court press and forcing their opponent to either adjust or be run out of the gym. They guzzle fast breaks and points off turnovers like Gatorade.
But in a 57-36 win over Helias Catholic on Friday, the Crusaders tried to play the concrete wall to Hickman's Corvette.
When Helias broke the Kewpies' press, the ball often ended up in the hands of guard Isiah Sykes, who would severely slow down the tempo of the game.
The first three quarters had very similar endings – Sykes would bring the ball up and simply hold it at midcourt, waiting for the clock to run down.
Commotion that stirred in the crowd during a long timeout at the beginning of the third quarter showed that even the Kewpies' traveling fans were getting antsy with the tempo.
"Slow" would definitely describe it – Hickman had scored just 21 points by the end of the second quarter, half of what they scored in that same time in their last game. At this point, the Kewpies led by just seven.
Hickman coach David Johnson called the affair a "physical" game. After scoping out the scene, Helias would often drive into the teeth of the Kewpies' defense.
Hickmans' low-post players frequently stood tall, with senior forward Cecil Williams recording several resounding swats, but the grinding style took a toll on Hickman.
Junior guard Chris Clark and junior forward Jordan Jones both picked up two fouls early in the game. They were relegated to the bench, leaving the Kewpies slightly shorthanded.
"I definitely thought they (Helias) did a good job of really being physical with us, and their physicality kind of controlled the game a little bit," Johnson said. "But, you know, our boys got in some foul trouble early, and it kind of took away maybe some of our speed and quickness."
Clark plays a significant role in helping set Hickman's tempo. In trouble with fouls, he could only sit and watch for much of the first half.
"It was real frustrating (to see the game slow down) because I knew that Jimmy Whitt, he doesn't really like pushing the ball and I know that I could release him off some pressure and I could just bring the ball up and get him free and get him open," Clark said. "And I just felt like it was horrible just watching it slow down."
Clark reentered in the second half though, and the Kewpies pulled away from the Crusaders.
"You know, our boys know how to grind it out too, and I thought they grinded it out in that first half when we got in foul trouble and we had to play a grind-out game, and that's what I told them" Johnson said.
Johnson said that the team was able to "settle down" and regain their speed in the second half.
This was on full display during the closing minute, when Whitt twice found an open court in front of himand finished both drives with an emphatic two-handed slam.
Hickman plays Saturday at 5:30 against St. Louis' Madison Prep.