VANDALIA — If there were any residual effects from a two-day break for Christmas and an early tip-off in the first game back, they didn't show.
The Shelbyville boys basketball team opened the Vandalia Holiday Tournament with an emphatic 69-44 win against Father McGivney Tuesday morning.
Getting back in the swing of basketball started before the roughly 10:45 a.m. tipoff. The Rams met at their gym at 8 a.m. to get some shots up prior to the nearly hour drive to Vandalia.
The formula worked. Shelbyville (9-1) raced out of the gates to a 19-4 lead after the first quarter and never relented.
In the middle of the Rams' run was Brett Spears and his flowing red hair waving as he ran down the court in transition after coming up with steals — both on ball and by jumping passing lanes.
“I try to be really active and get big steals because they’re game-changers,” Spears said.
Spears scored 15 points for the Rams, all coming in the first three quarters. Thirteen came in the first half, after which Shelbyville led 45-14.
“Brett’s growing every game," Shelbyville coach Bob Herdes said. "He’s playing a little bit better every game and he’s feeling a little bit more comfortable and he’s athletic enough, even though he’s not very big (5-8), he’s athletic enough to finish at the rim and he runs the floor great."
While Spears set the tone defensively, junior Malcolm Miller displayed his entire offensive repertoire early and often.
Miller, a 6-foot-4 junior, opened the game by stepping into a 3-pointer, followed by a layup on the next possession. By halftime, he had 21 of his game-high 23 points.
After three quarters, it looked like Miller's day was done, with a comfortable Shelbyville lead, but late in the fourth quarter after Braydon Vice fouled out, Herdes had to put his star back in the game.
“We were getting volunteers there when it came to who had to go in," Herdes said with a chuckle. "They were kind of ducking, so I said, ‘Hey, you’ve got to go in.’”
That's where Miller notched his 10th, and final, rebound to complete the double-double.
“We just wanted to be focused no matter who we were playing and we wanted to come out and play the best we could," Miller said. "We wanted to set the tone for the whole tournament and I think that’s what we did."
The rest of the Rams' offense was humming. Freshman Kade Kull broke out of his recent shooting woes with a 14-point, 5-rebound performance and canned 3 of 5 from downtown.
It was just what Herdes wanted to see.
“It was good to see Kull hit the 3s," Herdes said. "He had been struggling from outside so it was good to see him get going."
Shelbyville will South Central at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in the second game of the round-robin tournament.
In an era of basketball where the game is shifting towards 3-pointers, layups and free throws, it was fairly refreshing to see Miller make mid-range shots with ease.
He's also a prolific 3-pointer shooter, but he can break a zone and drain shots from the free-throw line.
Cleaning it up
There's only been one loss for Shelbyville, by three points to Petersburg PORTA, but the problem was easily identifiable.
The Rams were 5 of 14 from the stripe in the loss.
They drained all seven attempts Tuesday.
“We’ve been a little Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at the free-throw line," Herdes said. "We’ve shot them well, we shot 83 percent one night, then we hit 5 out of 14. We can cry about a lot of things, but when we hit 5 out of 14 and lose a three-point game, you know where you lost it."
It's been a point of emphasis.
“At practice we’ve been working on it a lot and I think we’re finally starting to figure it out and realize that we’ve got to knock down free throws," Miller added.