Andy Luther anticipated it coming in, he reminded his players of it repeatedly throughout the game — “no relaxing in transition, no relaxing in transition,” he would say nearly every huddle — and he recognized it as the difference-maker after his Landon School basketball team dropped a 69-57 decision to Takoma Academy in the Bobby Miller Bulldog Holiday Classic at Winston Churchill.
“We just knew they were going to be very, very fast and athletic, try to hurry us up,” Luther said. “We anticipated how they would play us and we had a tough time reacting the entire game. We reacted very well at times, scored against it well at times, but we got out of our flow a lot of times as well and I think that’s what cost us.”
In the few instances that the game was slowed down and played from a half-court set, Landon was methodical in its attack, dumping it in to Kolby Williams and Tumi Onaghise and letting the big men go to work on the much smaller Takoma team. Not surprisingly, the duo wound up leading Landon with 12 and 20 points, respectively.
But when the Tigers, who deployed a five-guard offense, found an opportunity to speed things up, the Bears’ biggest advantage — size — quickly became their weakness.
“I don’t have to worry about ball-handling,” Takoma coach Harvey Powell Jr. said. “I have five guys that can handle the basketball … we can make plays all day long. We try to score and go full-court and make them come out of half-court. If [opposing teams] get to play their pace, most of the time we’re in trouble, but if we can play our pace, I’d much rather do that. Just force them out.”
Takoma guard Donnell Diggs, later named to the Green Division’s all-tournament team, scored a team-high 19 points, mostly products of Landon turnovers or outlets from clean rebounds. Backcourt teammate Jalen Williams, a 6-foot-2 senior guard, added 13.
“We have to run,” Powell said. “I’d like to think we’re in better shape than everybody we play. When we find a team that’s in better shape than we are, more power to them, but most of the time we’re the most in-shape team on the court.”
Throughout the contest, Takoma’s points would come and go in abrupt spurts that would largely depend on the Bears’ ball control. If Landon was turning it over, Takoma was usually scoring immediately on the other end. If Landon was taking care of the ball, the game leaned slightly in the Bears’ favor.
The Tigers went on an 11-2 run between the first and second quarters but then relinquished an 11-0 burst from Landon as the Bears slowed the game down and got quality looks, keeping Takoma’s speedsters from quick transition buckets.
“Those guys are faster than us,” Luther said. “So we’re not going to try to run just for the sake of running. We were going to make sure we were slowing them down, playing to our strengths.”
But the beginning of the fourth quarter, with the game just six points in Takoma’s favor, featured a rash of Landon turnovers that led to Takoma layups on the other end. Midway through the fourth, the Tigers had opened up a 14-point lead that would peak at 15 with two minutes left, leaving Landon out of reach. Takoma, after starting the season 1-3, has now won three of its last four.
“We started kind of slow in the beginning of the season,” said Diggs, who’s averaging 18.1 per game. “Now everybody is starting to work together and play hard and everything is starting to come together.”
Takoma Academy 69, Landon 57
Takoma (4-4) 17 18 18 16—69
Landon (2-6) 11 19 16 11—57
Takoma — Donnell Diggs 19; Jalen Williams 13; Kendall Hucks 10; Charles Vines 9; Byron McMillan 6; Chris Johnson 5; Anthony Tate 5; Joel Bullard 2.
Landon — Tumi Onaghise 20; Kolby Williams 12; Clayton Collins 5; Harry Laird 5; Marshall Peters 4; Michael Bednarek 2; Matt Perlmutter 2; Sebastian Wells 2; Khaleef Bradford 2; Jordan Marshall 2; Isaiah Colclough 1.