By JAMES GENSTERBLUM / Daily News Correspondent
Last year, the Pittsford Wildcats bought into the concept of team over individual that head coach Mike Burger advocated, and rode that concept to a 20-0 regular season.
On Thursday night, a new outfit of Wildcats showed that the team concept was still effective, using crisp passing and an unselfish approach to crush the visiting Colon Magi to open the SCAA season with a 72-51 win.
“The philosophy we have over here is that if you are unselfish and you work hard every minute on the court, then you make the team better,” Burger said. “That’s a hard message to get kids to hear, because it means sacrificing your scoring and individual stats for the benefit of the team. But this group has really bought into that philosophy. We have a lot to get better at over the season, but that foundation is there.”
The Wildcats worked the ball around with patience against an aggressive Colon defense, and senior point guard Seth Weber took advantage.
Freed by ball screens, Weber drained open three after open three, seven in all, to finish with 26 points on the night.
“We were taking what the defense gave us,” said Weber, who also had five rebounds and five assists. “I was getting the ball where I had open looks because they were focused on other players defensively, and I took advantage as best I could.”
Burger said Weber’s teammates did a good job of getting him the ball.
“Give a lot of credit to the other kids on the team, they recognized that Seth was hot tonight, and they worked hard to get him the ball and get him open,” Burger said. “They recognize that they’ll have nights like Seth where they’re shooting well, and everyone else on the team will be working to get them looks. If you play unselfish basketball, eventually scoring opportunities come back around to you.”
Weber was also freed up by the play of Garet Lee inside. Despite drawing double teams regularly from the Magi defense, the reigning SCAA MVP still managed to put in 16 points and nine rebounds to give Pittsford an advantage in the paint.
Although Weber and Lee led the way, everyone else contributed offensively as well for Pittsford, as every player that saw the court for the Wildcats scored on the night.
Defensively the Wildcats used a full-court pressure attack to force turnovers and create offense, sparking an 11-2 run at the start of the second quarter that gave Pittsford control of the game. Although Colon would cut into the lead at the start of the third quarter, eventually the Wildcats would pull away.
“We did some nice things with our defense as far as forcing turnovers, but we’re not where we need to be quite yet,” Burger said. “We’re still giving up too many easy points in transition at times. If we can tighten that up, we’ll be in a much better position.”
The Wildcats improve to 2-1 on the season and 1-0 in the SCAA as they head into the long Christmas break, but Burger knows that Pittsford can’t afford to be resting on its laurels. With rivals Waldron and North Adams-Jerome sitting close behind in the standings, the Wildcats will have to continue to improve.
“Even though we got the win tonight, I don’t think anyone in the locker room is satisfied with where we are right now,” Burger said.
“We have a lot of things we can improve on as a team to better prepare us for the battles to come in the SCAA. The good news is that all of these kids recognize that and they’ll be working hard to get better.”