Erskine, collective effort assist Warriors over St. Joseph

Dec. 21, 2011 at 6:21 a.m.

With his players huddled around him, West head coach Pat Erskine discusses game strategy during a timeout against St. Joseph on Tuesday.

With his players huddled around him, West head coach Pat Erskine discusses game strategy during a timeout against St. Joseph on Tuesday.

It would be easy to highlight Drew Erskine.

After all, the Victoria West guard helped carry the Warriors through a rough 2010 season, earning district MVP honors in the process.

On Tuesday, the senior again carried the team through a challenging opening half, creating shots for himself and others en route to a game-high 28 points.

But the Warriors 60-44 victory over St. Joseph went beyond No. 13 in white.

"Playing a team that is not in the same classification, it can go both ways," said West coach Pat Erskine. "They know each other. You don't know what you're going to get until you play. I thought both teams played really hard in that first half."

It featured a Flyers bunch that was decided underdogs and wanted a test against a quality Class 4A opponent in its quest to verify the legitimacy of its 13-5 record. Tuesday's game brought out curious players and coaches from Victoria East, as well as a larger than normal crowd and a self-prescribed mental check for the Warriors.

"It's really big and it's good for basketball. It gives the kids a chance to play with each other," said St. Joseph coach Abe Garcia.

"They all know each other, they play summer ball together and they are all friends and neighbors. It's really good. I think the kids really enjoy it and it keeps it competitive. I hope we can do a lot more of it."

That said, Garcia might not want his team to play catch-up for extended periods as the West lead fluctuated between five and nine points for most of the first half.

Consecutive 3-pointers from St. Joseph sophomore Luke Wenske trimmed the Warriors' lead to 26-23 with 2:13 remaining in the first half.

Sharpshooting from the older Erskine kept the Warriors afloat in the first half. After a deliberate 49-second possession allowed Drew to hoist a contested 3-pointer of his own in the corner to restore the two-possession lead.

Nic Bufford's 3-pointer from the wing just before halftime was just the third field goal from the Warriors by someone other than Erskine. Bufford finished with 12 points, while Erskine scored 23 of his points during the first half.

"It boosted our confidence and let us all know that we can all hit big shots at big times and not just one person," Bufford said of his second 3-pointer of the half. "We're all a team and we have to score to make our team keep going."

Bufford said his team wanted to play harder against the Flyers in part because they have played against the St. Joseph players for years, and also because they want to let people in the area know they mean business.

If someone told Abe Garcia his Flyers would trail 32-25 at intermission despite Erskine's explosion, he probably would not have been too disappointed. He added it is tough to defend someone as fundamentally sound as the slippery guard, which is why his team tried to limit the touches and potency of other Victoria West players.

That might not have happened for St. Joseph in the second half, as Bufford, and James Murphy provided secondary scoring options. Despite the loss, the Flyers found an inside presence in underclassmen Austin Kovar and Cody Janak, in addition to senior post Dean Vanek.

"It was like David and Goliath. The big 4A school, and us, the small little private school coming in here trying to plug, bring energy and try to bring the intensity and match what they always bring."

Throughout the game those three were able to establish position inside and get shots inside of eight feet. The combined for 21 points, and Kovar provided a half-dozen second half points.

"I did not know where we were and I have a great idea where we are now," Garcia said. "I know that we can play inside and that our bigs can play inside with just about anyone."

West's revelations from its victory were more collective. Jacob Garza and Darien Henry proved they can provide front-court depth for Clayton Cain, while guards Miles Manning and Trey Cole provide two drastically different options off the bench.

Cole's aggressiveness means he is unafraid to take and make a 15-foot jump shot, while Manning has returned to basketball after two years away and been a ball handler and facilitator.

Pat Erskine said his son, Drew, knows when to play with a sense of urgency. Manning, Cole and his frontcourt have begun to exhibit that despite Drew's 28 points, the Warriors have the depth to challenge for more than the fourth spot in District 30-4A this season.



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