HOUSTON – Chartiers-Houston boys basketball coach Eugene Briggs went with a triangle-and-two zone defense to try and stop California’s lethal guard combination of Tanner Huffman and Brian Fisher.
Too bad using a triangle-and-three would be against the rules.
While Huffman and Fisher were held at least relatively in check, 6-5 senior forward Evan Patterson proved to be the most problematic for the Bucs during a season-opening 62-56 win for the Trojans Tuesday night, scoring 10 points – all on short jumpers near the elbow – and pulling down 12 rebounds.
“They score a lot,” Patterson said of Huffman and Fisher, who combined for 31 points per game last season. “I like that because I don’t have to do as much work, just rebound for them. But if that scoring goes away, then I know I need to step up.”
Briggs’ plan called for tight defense on Huffman (19 points) and Fisher (11), but Patterson was able to find several holes around the foul line, dead center of the Bucs’ defense.
And he had no problem knocking down a few open shots.
“What made a difference was Patterson hitting those elbow jumpers, which makes that triangle kind of hard to stay in,” Briggs said. “When someone has two really good guards, you take them away and they still score points … that’s tough defensively.”
The game was the first for California this season, as the Trojans did not play in a tip-off tournament over the weekend.
Besides Huffman, Fisher and Patterson, Demetri Clements finished with eight points, and Austin Wingo added seven. Chartiers-Houston (2-1) got 14 points apiece from Ben Shade and Shayne Murphy, 12 more from Kodie Hanley.
With an experienced lineup spearheaded by Huffman and Fisher, California appeared every bit the Section 5-AA title contender the Trojans are expected to be, save for a few lapses and a handful of missed shots they’d probably like to have back.
“We have high expectations this year. Really high,” Huffman said. “We hope to win the section, and I think this was a good start. We were a little sloppy obviously, but most of the teams already played in tournaments this weekend and we didn’t. We were anxious, but we got it done.”
California jumped out to an 11-6 lead early behind a pair of short jumpers from Patterson, but Dylan Pounds knocked down a 3-pointer from the right corner and Hanley scored on a layup to tie it.
California led, 15-13, after the first quarter and opened the second with an 11-0 run that had the score at 26-13 following a layup from Clements.
Chartiers-Houston, which faced a 30-19 deficit at the break, was held without a field goal in the period until Ben Shade scored on a putback with three seconds left before halftime.
The Bucs cut the lead to nine on a jumper from Murphy with 20 seconds left in the third quarter, but California wouldn’t allow its lead to get any smaller until Chartiers-Houston made a push by trimming a 17-point deficit to six in the final 90 seconds.
“I thought going in there it was going to be a tough game,” California coach Phil Pergola said. “I thought we played well in spurts, and are times when you don’t play well. For the first game, I’m satisfied.”