Experienced Tigers enter at 5-1
On Friday, Jeff West had another day of school cancelled, which in turn meant postponement of another basketball game.
From Jan. 4 when students came back from winter break until Friday, the Tigers had two practices and one game.
That usually doesn't help a coach sleep any better at night.
"What do you do?" Jeff West coach Larry Latimer said. "You can't worry about the things you can't control."
The Jeff West boys, however, have been in control throughout much of the early season.
After finishing last season at 8-13 overall and 7-7 in the Big Seven with a young team, this year's Tigers were sitting at 5-1 heading into the Tonganoxie Invitational.
"We were really inexperienced," Latimer said about last season. "The good side of that is that there were a lot of guys who did get time to play."
Those four returning starters are Brady Rodecap, Jared Brown, Bryan Roberts and Aric Cherry. Another returnee, sixth man Kurtis Tuck, also is providing valuable minutes for Jeff West this year.
Jeff West's wins have come against Perry-Lecompton, Sabetha, Royal Valley, Atchison County and fellow Tonganoxie Invitational team Silver Lake. The only blemish on the record coming into the tournament was against Nemaha Valley.
For Latimer, his team's strength is in the numbers. Depth has helped this year's squad, which has thrived on a more up-tempo game. With Rodecap and Cherry as the team's tallest players at 6-3, the Tigers overall do not boast a tall squad. The faster the pace the better it's been for the Tigers this season.
"A half-court team doesn't suit us quite as well," Latimer said. "That's been our strength, we've tried to be a full-court team."
The Tigers like to put up plenty of points on the scoreboard, but this week, Latimer would like to see the team's half-court defense improve. Overall this season, the Tigers have just one more rebound than their opponents. Latimer admitted his team doesn't have a lot of height, but as he said his team can overcome that.
"Size isn't always the key to rebounding," Latimer said.
Jeff West drew Tonganoxie in the first round of this year's tournament, marking the third time in as many years the teams have met. Last year, Tonganoxie escaped Meriden with a victory in a double-overtime thriller.
"Last year's was crazy at our place," Latimer said.