Norwalk St. Paul boys basketball close to perfect

NORWALK Nearing the midway point of the season schedule, it would be hard to fault those within the St.
Mark Hazelwood
Aug 25, 2010

NORWALK

Nearing the midway point of the season schedule, it would be hard to fault those within the St. Paul boys basketball program for believing they should be unbeaten at 9-0, in a share of first place in the Firelands Conference with Plymouth and perhaps even garnering some attention in the Associated Press poll.

But the reality is, three overtime losses have left the Flyers at 6-3 overall and 4-2 in the FC, two games behind front-running Plymouth.

"I don't believe in moral victories," St. Paul head coach Mike Smith said. "We were close, but didn't come through in those situations. We keep working on those situations like clock management in practice and get better at it.

"The positive is we've had the chance to be unbeaten, but the reality is we aren't and we have to keep moving forward."

St. Paul's next two games will be at the convocation center against New London Friday night and Western Reserve on Jan. 30. It was back on Dec. 19 and 20 that the Flyers suffered back-to-back road overtime losses against the Wildcats and Roughriders, losing 52-51 to New London (6-4, 5-3) and 54-52 to Western Reserve (6-5, 5-2).

"It's in our kids minds a little bit," Smith said about the rematches with both teams. "We've got to try and redeem ourselves, as both places are traditionally tough to play on the road and we're 4-0 at home.

"But the big thing is to continue to get better and I think we've done that. Our shot selection has been good and in those two losses we didn't shoot particularly well, so we are excited about showing the improvement we've had but we also respect New London and Western."

After dropping the two overtime losses, the Flyers had won three in a row until another overtime loss, a 65-59 setback at Tiffin Calvert (8-3) last weekend. Friday's game with the Wildcats will mark the Flyers fourth game in an eight-day span.

"We just have to take care of ourselves and try to play as consistent as we can," Smith said. "Being a young team with the experience we had coming back, we knew we'd have a few bumps in the road and I think we've consistently shot better each time out."

Another interesting quirk to the Flyers season after this weekend and a Feb. 6 matchup with Mapleton at home is St. Paul will have played 10 of its 14 FC games, including three teams twice, without facing the state-ranked Plymouth Big Red (9-1, 6-0) yet.

Plymouth has opened up a two-game lead in the loss column on the rest of the FC while the Flyers haven't gotten a shot at them yet.

"I just know that if we keep winning, that game on Feb. 10 (at Plymouth) will give us an opportunity to cut it in half," Smith said. "If we don't take care of business, that game isn't nearly as important and we have three conference games before we really start thinking about Plymouth.

"Again, we can only take care of what we can, and maybe hope someone can sting Plymouth a little bit. There are a lot of opponents that can knock them off, but if we don't do our job it won't meant a whole lot. It's just best for us to not get caught up in it and try to control our own destiny."

With that being said, Smith cautioned that the upcoming stretch while important is just another step in the right direction.

"Each game in this conference is important and there are certainly tough challenges ahead of us," he said. "I don't look at that scheduling with Plymouth and think much of it.

"Our major goal is to win a conference title and for us to do that we have to keep putting wins up and the ultimate goal is to be playing our best at the end of the year. As of now, I feel like we are heading in that right direction," Smith added.