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Tigers run away with season opener against Wetumpka

GHS head basketball coach Stu Stuedeman was just as energetic as his players Monday night in Greenville's season opener against Wetumpka.

GHS head basketball coach Stu Stuedeman was just as energetic as his players Monday night in Greenville’s season opener against Wetumpka.

The Greenville Tigers adhered closely to their new mantra, “all gas, no brakes,” Monday in their season opener 75-66 win over the Wetumpka Indians.

And though there were occasional pit stops on the way to victory—mostly in the form of turnovers and fouls—the battle was fought and won at the free throw line, in which the Tigers pulled away from an otherwise back-and-forth exchange in the final minute of play.

A signature 3-pointer from Charles Warren started the Tigers off strong, followed by a jumpshot from Tyler Stone.  The early points set a lightning-fast pace for Greenville that led to an early 8-1 lead, though Wetumpka shooting guard Edward Rogers and the Indians would gradually chip away at it until they gained their first lead with 6:41 left to play in the second quarter. 

A breakaway dunk from Stone revitalized the Tigers’ second-quarter efforts, leading to a 10-point lead as the first half drew to a close, but another Wetumpka run narrowed the lead to a single point at halftime.

History repeated itself in the third as a 3-pointer from Romontez Rhodes and a 3-point play from Jeremiah Owens gave the Tigers another cushion, but a single mistimed inbound pass shifted momentum back in Wetumpka’s favor as the third quarter came to a close.

But with the Tigers’ continuous subbing, a fresh Greenville team overran the tired Indians in the fourth, who struggled often from the free throw line as the Tigers’ advantage grew in the game’s final seconds.

Greenville head basketball coach Stu Stuedeman said that it was the Tigers’ up-tempo pace that ultimately was responsible for the victory.

“Our game plan is always going to be full court pressure defense in your face, sharing the ball on offense and playing fast, and playing a lot of guys to wear people down,” Stuedeman said. “I think we did that pretty well, being the first game of the year and the first time that we’ve played someone different from ourselves.  It didn’t go perfectly, but it went well. 

“But I think our goals and what the system is designed to do, and therefore our game plan, worked.  We really crushed them in the fourth quarter. We were barely breathing heavy and we just pulled away because of that style of play.”

The Tigers’ depth and energy from the bench also led to five consecutive Wetumpka turnovers, during which period Greenville capitalized on the Indians’ mistakes and sank a trio of 3-pointers to gain a late 11-point advantage that proved a difficult hurdle for Wetumpka to overcome.

“There’s a lot of teams that want to play fast in spurts,” Stuedeman said. “We want to play fast the whole game, and guard you baseline to baseline the whole game.  Some teams want to pick up and press in spurts so they can play some of their better players longer. 

“The way I see it, our better players are our whole team.  And I really do believe that.  We work our guys so hard in practice that when their number is called they’re able to go out there and play fearlessly and play hard, and we don’t have to worry about them losing anything when we sub.”

Stuedeman was also thankful for the community’s support.

“For a Monday night and a school night, the crowd was phenomenal,” he said. “I hope they were entertained and I hope they keep coming back, because we want to be the community’s team.  And I know the kids appreciate it, too.”

Warren led the Tigers with 17 points, and Owens shot 64 percent from the floor for 15 points and 7 rebounds.

The Tigers will find their next opportunity to improve on the road against the Hillcrest Evergreen Jaguars on Nov. 29.