GIRARD - A quick glance of the Girard High School boys basketball team usually results in another, more thorough and lengthy look at the Indians.
The second inspection usually happens because people are wondering where all the taller players are. Well, there aren't too many. In fact, Girard has just one person over 6 feet (6-1 sophomore DeMario Vaughn).
Lucky for the Indians, what they lack in size, they make up for in speed.
Girard's overall quickness and constant pressure were key components to its 60-46 non-conference victory over Maplewood on Tuesday.
The Indians (2-1) forced 31 turnovers and pestered the Rockets' offense all night by jumping in passing lanes and stealing would-be passes. It was the gameplan first-year Girard coach Craig Hannon had in mind against the bigger Rockets (2-3), who boast seven players over 6 feet.
"We have to play fast," he said. "We're not big enough to play slow. I think people understand right away as to why (we want to play fast) once they see the size of our team. We felt like maybe we could do that in this specific game because they had some size."
The Indians hounded Maplewood with a full-court press from the start, and the Rockets struggled to dribble the ball up court. Aside from eight first-quarter turnovers, the press kept Maplewood from passing the ball inside, where it had a distinct size advantage. That not only frustrated their players but Rockets coach Nathan Kish as well.
"What bothers me is it seems like when we get on the floor, if you knew nothing about the game of basketball, you would say that team is just physically not tough," he said. "They're afraid. There's a fear, and that's how we've played. I don't know what there is to be afraid of. We have to be able to slow down and play the game. Right now, we're just not doing that."
Girard's fast-break style really started to take shape in the second quarter. Six different players scored in the frame, and the Indians pushed what was a five-point lead into a 35-18 advantage at halftime. Girard's dribble penetration resulted in open looks on the outside for the Indians, who made seven 3-pointers. The third quarter was a different story though.
Maplewood came out with more energy than Girard and went on a 13-2 run, trimming the lead to 37-31. Hannon said the Indians looked lifeless in the quarter and were content with the early advantage. Maplewood also began to establish an inside presence with Ethan Obradovich, who scored nine of his team-high 17 points in the quarter. The Indians began to pick it up late in the period as Craig Randall, who led all scorers with 19, hit a runner in the lane and was fouled. He converted the free throw, and on the next possession, Tyler Kilbourne used a nice move inside to score a basket and put Girard back up by 11.
"We got complacent," Hannon said. "And we need to work on that. Part of that is we're still learning how to win, but we need to put teams away when we have them. I think they realized pretty quick they were in a basketball game and they were going to have to step it up. We can't have an on-and-off switch. It has to be on all the time."
It came on in the fourth quarter. The Rockets' Kevin Jones hit a big 3 to cut the lead to nine, but the Indians immediately responded with a 3 by Korri Maynard and then a steal and bucket by Randall. Girard put the game away the next trip down as Randall hit a dagger of a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 17.
"We've just got to be a tougher team," Kish said. "We do it in little spurts, but it has to be for four quarters. If we do it all the time, then we'll be competitive. But if not, we're never going to beat a team like Girard."