Blackhawks’ pressure too much for Wildcats

Gresham struggles to guard defensively
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Leader photo by Jacy Zollar Gresham Community High School freshman Raven Bennett passes the ball during a 78-51 loss to Port Edwards at home on Thursday.

A struggling Gresham defense couldn’t keep pace with Port Edwards and fell 78-51 in Thursday’s home game.

The Wildcats started the matchup strong, gaining a 5-0 lead from a Todd Otradovec 3-pointer and Jake Hoffman layup. The Blackhawks warmed up to tie 9-9 and secured 18 of the next 20 points to take over for the remainder of the game.

Gresham head coach Jeff Zobeck said his team is working out kinks in these first nonconference games, specifically on defense.

“We can’t guard anybody,” he said. “We can’t keep anybody in front of us. We played every zone known to man tonight, and that led to 3-pointers, so we’ve got to be able to guard, and even if we are playing more of a matchup style, which is what we like to do, we still need to be able to guard the ball.

“We kind of ran out of options tonight and decided we were going to go back to man-to-man, and that just allowed guys to dribble by us too easily.”

The Wildcats’ defensive struggle, mixed with strong Port Edwards (2-0) shooters made for a tough game.

“They’re a very good 3-point team,” Zobeck said. “They shot better tonight than they normally do and our guys weren’t prepared for it. They’re very skilled and very balanced.”

The Blackhawks made 11 3-pointers to Gresham’s five.

Port Edwards head coach Dave Gibbs emphasized full-court pressure, 3-point shots and rebounding leading up to the game, and the Blackhawks were able to execute on them all.

“This is probably the first time in my coaching career that almost all seven have 3-point capabilities, and that’s by design,” he said. “We practice it a lot, and we practice rebounding a lot, too, because if you’re going to shoot those 3s, a lot of the rebounds are going to be long, so I challenge them to get a third of the rebounds from 3s in practice.”

The Wildcats (0-2) ended the first half with just 16 points, but improved offensively in the second with 35 points.

“There were some positives in the second half, no doubt,” Zobeck said. “We executed a little better, and I think the first half we were just taking bad shots, quick shots, not moving the ball to break down defense. In the second half, we did that a little better so it gave us more scoring opportunities.”

Drew Haffner and Otradovec combined for 21 second-half points — 11 from Haffner, including three 3-pointers, and 10 from Otradovec. Port Edwards’ Ian Gibbs scored a team-high 13 points in the final half.

Zobeck remained optimistic despite the loss, saying that his team now knows the glaring fixes they need to make before Central Wisconsin Conference-North play begins Dec. 8 against Marion.

“We’re just going to keep trying to find something that works (defensively),” he said. “Even offensively, we were struggling with just not moving enough and swinging the ball fast enough. You watch them (Port Edwards), and they’re swinging the ball around a lot, and we’re dribbling with our head down. So we’ll just keep trying to find something that will work.”

Otradovec led the Wildcats with 15 points, followed by Haffner with 14. Raven Bennett led at the free-throw line with a perfect 4-for-4. Port Edwards was led by Addison Gibbs and Ian Gibbs, each with 22 points.

Port Edwards (78)

Reuben Freeberg 0 0-0 2; Addison Gibbs 3 0-1 22; Peyton Kohlbeck 1 0-1 14; Ian Gibbs 3 5-6 22; David Gibbs 0 0-0 6; Quinton Tranel 3 0-0 8; Garrett Ingram 4 0-0 4.

Gresham (51)

Drew Haffner 1 0-0 14; Raven Bennett 3 4-4 6; Justice Paiser 0 1-3 9; Jake Hoffman 4 1-3 7; Todd Otradovec 3 0-3 15.

Port Edwards 35 43 — 78

Gresham 16 35 — 51