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Huskies Fall in Home Opener

By — Ronan Heykoop

The Tuscarora Highschool Varsity Basketball team suffered a heartbreaking loss in their home opener against the visiting Freedom Eagles [67-48]. Tuscarora is under the new management of famed Huskies girl’s coach Michael Newkirk. Over the course of nine seasons, Newkirk guided Tuscarora to four regular-season titles, three district tournament championships, and numerous state runs. Newkirk finished his reign as head man of the Lady Huskies with an overall record of 158-76. After starting the season off on a sour note and hosting a high-powered Potomac Falls team come Friday he assured me that this is not the “whole tusky” and that “we are limited.” This is very true as two key players in Adian O’Malley and Markel Dillard are currently injured and the Tuscarora football team has gone on a deep run as they compete this weekend in the state semifinals. Multiple football players also play basketball and they are unable to miss practice for eligibility purposes.

At tip-off the Tuscarora team looked anxious as the Eagles immediately pounded 2 points off a fast break after winning the tip off. At first the Freedom team dominated possession with good rebounding and ball movement but with a few explosive plays from Tusky’s star guard Jadon White the tide appeared to turn. With multiple offensive rebounds from Jalen Smith and Gavin O’malley Tuscarora started to dominate the glass and settle into the game. As they started to dominate possession Freedom forward Dominic Jones checked in, he caused an immediate impact getting multiple steals and playing the mental game. Defense became a problem subsequently the Eagles went on a 12-2 run. Then a little life began to show for Tuscarora but they started to compete with the refs as they missed multiple blatant fouls. This caused some frustration which was the note the 1st quarter concluded on. The quarter ended at 21-8 with Freedom leading. 

During the first few minutes of the second quarter there was a defensive stalemate with both teams playing excellent defense. After an electric And-1 play from Gavin O’Malley the tide began to turn and two nasty blocks from Jalen Smith jolted the Tuscarora team in action. Tuscarora’s offense began to roll again scoring bucket after bucket which cut the freedom lead to 11. Freedom tried to regain some ground but Tuscarora team continued to dominate the glass as well as possession, nothing seemed to fall on offense. Tuscarora managed to cut the orginal 14 lead to single digits with the first half ending at Freedom 31, Tuscarora 22. 

A different group of Huskies seemed to come out of the locker room. The team was way more aggressive and competitive on both sides of the ball. They made fouls happen and did a great job of converting FTs. Tuscarora showed good character on defense but a lack of discipline, with multiple players got into foul trouble as the quarter wound down and the lead was cut to 4. The fatigue of playing with a meer 7 players began to set in as Freedom’s shooting began to heat up. Freedom led by senior guard Robbie Kemmerer went on a 16-0 round to begin the 4th and final quarter. The rest of the game coasted with Freedom securing the victory. 

After the game I had the privilege to talk to Coach Newkirk about what he felt like the team could have done better. He pointed it towards the teams lack of discipline: “As a young ball club [program] as we are there is an element I felt we couldn’t exhibit tonight. Defensive wall it up as opposed to reaching that lead to Jack [Clark] being in foul trouble. Other guys like Tayvon [Smith] and Gavin O’malley to, I think we had something like 9 team fouls in the first quarter and when the shots began to not fall you need to have the discipline to move the ball side to side.”

Speaking of the young talent on this team I asked him to touch on the great performances by Freshman Gavin O’Malley and Sophomore Jaden Smith and he said “they are on varsity for a reason, that wasn’t a fluke, we talked about needing them to step up and obviously you saw what happened.” When asked about the rest of the season he said one word “hopeful.” After Gavin’s great performance in his first start on varsity as a freshman no less he said “it was kind of scary at first, but they weren’t as big as they seemed, and it really wasn’t that hard.” This friday the Huskies take on the Panthers of Potomac Falls High School. This will certainly be a test for them and won’t be a game to miss.

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