After a weeks absence from the competitive hardwood, the ADM boys’ basketball team will be getting back to competition as they take on the Perry Blue Jays tonight in Adel.
It will be a night to honor ADM’s seniors with senior night as they take on the Blue Jays, looking to get back in a winning groove. After a 6-2 start to the season, the Tigers have faltered down the later stretches of the campaign and despite the best start since the 2015-16 season, they’ve fallen in five of their last six contests. That has now landed the Tigers with a 7-6 overall record and a 5-3 record inside the Raccoon River Conference.
Each team goes through tough stretches and the Tigers have definitely done so as of late. They began the season connecting on nearly 40 percent of their field goal shots but have dipped to just over 36 percent over the last five-to-six games. The long ball game has also fallen short as of late dropping from nearly eight made three pointers per game to just under five during the recent six game stretch.
While it may be easy to look at one certain stat line and point to that as a cause, the recent struggles have come on the heels of several factors according to head coach Aaron Mager.
“We just haven’t been the same team recently and it’s come from various factors,” began Mager. “The biggest thing is once you get in a losing skid, it’s tough to keep a positive mindset and that’s the kind of funk we’ve been in lately. We haven’t been as crisp with our passing and we’ve battled with consistency over being aggressive and too aggressive. That’s impacted our low post game and since we aim to be a team that works from the inside out, it’s also affected the perimeter shooting game.”
Another aspect that has been aided in the four game losing streak has been the performances inside the fourth quarter. The past two contest alone have yielded just ten combined fourth quarter points which has diminished the fact that ADM had one of the best fourth quarter scoring marks within the Raccoon River Conference.
“It’s frustrating because in most of our losses we’ve held a lead entering the fourth quarter,” said Mager. “Recently in the first few recent defeats, I think we didn’t have the patience required to move the ball effectively to provide layups and free throws, shots you need to have late in games. Within the fourth quarter you still need to be patient yet aggressive which is a tough dichotomy to strike and I think that’s where we’ve struggled the most late in games.
Mager continued to talk about the other side to the coin of the late game troubles concerning a possible lack of aggressiveness.
“Just as you can lose if you are too aggressive, you can fall by not being aggressive enough which I felt happened against Ballard,” started Mager. “I thought we were very patient maybe to the point where we didn’t look for opportunities close. Those kind of things get you beat late in games.”
While many can argue what aspect of ADM’s recent performances have led to the most trouble, there’s one big underlying point that coach Mager mentioned that might trump them all.
“With how we began the season, some people may forget just how young this team is,” began Mager. “We have only two starters who return with varsity experience from last season and we may not be handling the success appropriately. It’s the internal struggles of a youthful team that also bears a big role in the last few games.”
Even with that said, the youthful Tiger roster still managed one of the best starts within the conference this season on the heels of several underclassmen starters.
“We may be young but this is a team who has had experience playing basketball well before high school,” said senior Lucas Heitz. “We don’t look at the team as made up of freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors. We look at the team as a bunch of teammates playing together, just one big class.”
Sophomore Nate Mueller came off a strong cross country season to currently lead ADM basketball in scoring averaging 14.1 points per game. Mueller also has 31 made three point shots and a team best 41 made free throws. Mueller along with the likes of Tate Stine-Smith, Dylan Anderson, and Ethan Juergens were part of a freshman group who went 20-1 last season and gained a lot of great playing time which has transitioned well at the varsity level.
“Nate has a great mind for the game and learned quite a lot last year under the likes of coach Blazek in terms of uniting a team as a whole and stepping up when needed into a leadership role,” said Mager. “This year he’s done a good job at that even though as a sophomore that’s a tall task. He knows how to set up shooters and as the team as a whole looks to get the tempo up, he’s going to be a catalyst for that.”
Now as the Tigers look to shake off their internal struggles, they take on yet another conference foe in Perry and tonight more than before, a fast start will definitely need to be in the cards for ADM. The Tigers were in the upper echelon in average first quarter scoring but have since dipped to the bottom of the conference. Now going up against a Perry squad with a full and healthy roster, the chance to shine on senior night will be a tougher struggle than before.
“When we first saw Perry they had a few players out for various reasons but know they have the likes of Brendan Ivory back and others and so they now have their full body of opportunities to work with,” began Mager. “It will be huge to start off quick especially with senior night starting all seniors to begin the game. I think those guys will step up to the challenge and start things off right. A strong start will also help us establish a full court approach as opposed to a half court one which unfortunately we’ve settled for the last few games, therefore missing several scoring and defensive opportunities along the way. Tonight a fast start will be needed.”
The Tigers and the Blue Jays will begin with round two from Adel tonight with first tip set to begin the contest at 7:30 p.m.