NORWALK — Apparently Aretha Franklin iTunes sales are going through the roofs among the top FCIAC boys basketball contenders.
One can envision practices starting with players lip synching R-E-S-P-E-C-T as they go through layup lines.
The Danbury players used the R-word, as in lack thereof, last week following a win over Norwalk. On Tuesday night, Brien McMahon’s best player, Jahmerikah Green-Younger, and his coach, Ken Dustin, admitted that a perceived absence of regard has fueled their team’s first 7-0 start in 33 years after an impressive 66-51 home win over defending league champion Westhill.
“People don’t believe in us so we have to keep working,” Green-Younger said after dropping 22 on the Vikings. “We feel people are against us and waiting for us to lose.”
Dustin didn’t do anything to dismiss his star player’s words as a case of kids being kids.
Quite the opposite.
“Maybe after tonight they will look at us as an actual team instead of somebody that didn’t beat anybody yet,” Dustin said. “I feel like we don’t get any respect from any reporter.”
It must be a matter of perspective, because the Senators and Danbury are the two teams that have been talked up the most since practice started. No one is comparing either team to last year’s Vikings, which sailed through the conference season unbeaten. But they were considered by most the teams to beat and have done nothing yet to change that status.
Tuesday’s game featured extreme momentum shifts, and there were many of them. After the Senators scored the first basket, Westhill went on a 9-0 run. McMahon then answered with nine straight points of its own.
The Vikings countered with 11 points in a row and a 20-11 advantage, which would prove to be their biggest of the night. McMahon chipped away to take a 29-28 halftime lead before Westhill scored the first eight points of the second half.
It was dizzying.
The Senators’ knockout punch came midway through the final quarter, 12 straight points to open up a decisive 62-45 lead.
“In the first half we came out slow,” Green-Younger said. “We weren’t playing as hard as we could. We knew what we had to do.”
TJ Burden added 14 points to a balanced attack for McMahon, while Joe Cantey Jr. finished with 11.
The Senators’ offense was fueled by their defense, taking advantage of turnovers — many unforced — and turning them into easy baskets. At times they seemed to be dropping a player to beat the Vikings downcourt.
“That was just them, that’s not me,” Dustin said. “I’m not going to say no. They are a fastbreak team. I think everybody knows it.”
Westhill coach Howard White stood in the locker room with his arms crossed and a look on his face that could cut steel afterward. The Vikings don’t have the perimeter shooting or depth to match McMahon but they do have the athleticism. The question, should they meet again, is whether they also have the basketball IQ, because it was a failed test on Tuesday and White knew it.
White assessed the game accurately in just five words when he said, “We played to their strengths.”
White elaborated: “They are quick and they are fast. They wanted us to put the ball down and they exploited that. They turned turnovers into layups.”
Right now the Vikings’ biggest problem is their best playmaker is also their best scorer and rebounder. That would be Tyrell Alexander, the lone starter back from a year ago, who finished with 12 points and was in the middle of every positive spurt, most often with good passes that led to layups. Voshon Nattel finished with a team-high 16 points for Westhill.
Westhill fell to 3-3 overall and 1-2 in the league. White knows he has the pieces but they haven’t yet fallen into place.
“One of the big things that bothers me with the team is the inconsistency that’s going on,” White said.
The Senators’ issue is easier: keep doing what they have been doing for a full 32 minutes. Right now they will likely continue to sing Aretha Franklin. Perhaps late next month, they will be trading her in for another not quite as oldie, by Queen.
We Are The Champions has a nice ring to it.