Jordan more prepared for semifinals after loss in '12

dmitchell@ledger-enquirerFebruary 28, 2013 

The Jordan boys basketball team has developed a distinct style of run-and-gun basketball that it has worked nearly to perfection throughout the region and state tournaments.

That same style of play got the Red Jackets (21-6) to the semifinals last year. Something else might help them take the next step when they play Bleckley County at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Georgia College in the Class AA semifinals:

Experience.

It’s something the team didn’t have last year when the players on the roster made their first appearance at the final four.

“When they stepped onto the court in Macon last year, their eyes were this big,” said coach Gerald Turner, making wide circle around his eyes. “That was a teaching tool. You can’t coach experience. They have to get that on their own.”

And they did. It came in a 52-44 loss against Laney, which was disappointing at the time. Now, players say that loss was just a learning experience that has helped prepare them for this season.

“Last year, we learned no one was going to give it to us,” senior Jamar Sheppard said. “We got a little too relaxed, a little too big-headed. This year, we know it’s a whole different game (in the semifinals).”

Turner expressed confidence in his team’s progression over the past year, saying on Thursday that he was confident in his team’s ability to take the next step.

The players don’t get too excited, Turner said. They never lose their rhythm when they fall behind, as evidenced by a 21-point win over Model in the quarterfinals despite falling behind by double-digits in the first quarter.

“We never worry when we fall behind,” Turner said. “They don’t get too excited. They just stay focused, and their chemistry keeps getting better and better.”

That’s a result of players who have played together and experienced basketball on one of the state’s biggest stages.

The stage will be big once again when the Red Jackets take on Bleckley County. Turner said it will be important for Jordan to keep the game at its pace.

“They have a big kid inside. If we let them run the half-court offense through him, we’ll get hurt,” Turner said. “We can’t let them do what they want to do. We try to dictate what they do.”

Guard Tony Palmer said part of that will be pressuring the basketball.

“We want to put a lot of pressure on other teams,” he said. “They can’t function as well.”

And, of course, the Red Jackets want to run the ball.

“Just keep running,” Palmer said when asked what his team needed to do to be successful. “If we keep running, we’ll be alright.”

Maybe better than alright. The teams will play on a court bigger than the ones they’re used to. Like the Kendrick girls, that stands to benefit the Red Jackets.

“The bigger the floor, the better for us,” Sheppard said. “We can spread the floor out and really run the ball.”

“We’ll have some big lanes to attack the basket,” Turner elaborated.

If it can take advantage of that, Turner thinks his team is in great position to move a step closer to achieving a goal it just missed out on a year ago.

“I wouldn’t want to play us,” Turner said.

David Mitchell, 706-571-8571; Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports.

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