Aggies outshoot Oak Grove in physical win

Choudrant’s Eli Callender looked more like a fullback than a basketball guard on this drive toward the basket against Oak Grove Tuesday night. (Photo by T. Scott Boatright)

By T. Scott Boatright

 

Oak Grove is coming off a Division IV Nonselect School State Championship less than two weeks ago.

On Tuesday night, the Tigers looked like they were still in pigskin-mode as they played a basketball game at Choudrant High School.

 And during a game that seemed to feature more gridiron-like grinding than basketball finesse, Choudrant showed that physical play can be overcome as the Aggies took control in the second quarter and held on for a 60-33 win over Oak Grove at the CHS Gym.

Aggies coach Ryan Smith was proud of the way his team played tough against the obviously bigger Tigers.

“We knew they had some size and had real athletes,” Smith said. “I think the whole transitioning from football players to basketball players came into effect tonight with their physicality and aggressive play — just used to getting away with some bumps and stuff that as they go on the next few games they’ll adjust to.

“I thought the first half was a straight football game. We were sluggish coming out. This game is up there in terms of the most physical I’ve coached. It’s not like they had just one or two guys — their guards are physical and their forwards are huge and physical.”

Choudrant parlayed a 9-6 advantage at the end of the first stanza into a 24-11 halftime lead, with Oak Grove’s power forward duo both getting into early foul trouble with their physical play.

Smith said he and his assistants made sure to let the Aggies know no to get caught up in the aggressive mentality but to instead play what he called Choudrant basketball.

“That was our halftime message – to slow down the ball and make (Oak Grove) adjust and see that they can’t just speed up the ball, because if we got into a track meet or they’d run all over us,” Smith said. “But thankfully we settled down and played our kind of game.”

Smith praised the physical play of a pair of Aggies for not allowing Oak Grove to outmuscle and overpower his team.

“Mike Jones and Lawson Stephens love that,” Smith said. “That’s how they practice with each other. That was right up their alley. But the physicality of Oak Grove’s guards is something you don’t see often, so I’m proud of our guys.” 

A pair of quick Oak Grove baskets only 28 seconds into the second half made it look like the Tigers were going to scratch and claw their way back into the contest trailing 24-16, but the Aggies went on a 7-0 run and helped on to lead 36-19 heading into the fourth quarter.

Choudrant moved out by as many as 25 points at 50-25 with 4:32 left in the final stanza on a short jumper by Tucker Batterton, who also hit a 3-pointer with 1:33 to give the Aggies their biggest lead in the contest — 27 points — at 57-30.

Jones led Choudrant with 18 points while Lachlan Thompson added 17 and Batterton and Trendon Cage chipped in with 10 points each for the Aggies.

“I’m proud of Lachlan and Eli and Tucker for coming out and stepping up big tonight, especially Tucker with his brother (senior Parker Batterton) still being hurt,” Smith said. “Tucker being only a sophomore and coming out and filling those shoes was quite impressive for someone who’s still just trying to gain experience.”

Smith admitted that despite losing major talent off of last year’s team,  the Aggies’ 16-4 record to begin this season, it may be a sign that while this team is different, it could just be better.

“Based on what we lost last year, I think most people would be surprised with all the talent we had and lost,” Smith said. “But as we got into the preseason we saw that Lawson is big and physical, Mike’s come a long way and Laughlin’s come a long way. 

“All we kept saying is, ‘Man, we’re going to be good defensively.’ We had some talent last year but we’re going to be a lot tougher this season. We’re more physical and able to adjust. It’s different styles. I’m just super proud of them.”

Smith said he team is now officially off until after Christmas.

“I just told them I don’t know of anyone who deserves more of a break after playing 20 games in what feels like the first half of the season,” Smith said. “To be 16-4 is pretty awesome. We have Calvin on (Dec. 27). We played them in their tournament and got by them by a few points, but they’ve got a good team. It’ll be a good power-point game so hopefully we can pull that one off. 

“But I told our guys in the locker room that I don’t want them even thinking about basketball and to go have a good time with their families. I may try to get them back on the 26th. But they’ve done really well in school and had no discipline problems, so I told them I just want this to be time with the family to chill out and enjoy that, too.”


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