Basketball: Motivating loss – Last season’s end fuels Hounds

By Reece Waddell | Published Wednesday, January 17, 2018
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The loss is still fresh on the minds of the Slidell Greyhounds.

The Greyhounds had a lead – albeit a slim one – going into the fourth quarter. With a trip to the regional semifinal on the line, Slidell was unable to put the game away. And eight short minutes later, the Greyhounds’ season came to an end with a 58-56 loss to Saltillo.

ATTACKING THE RIM – Slidell guard Layton Shelton drives for a layup in practice. Shelton leads the team in scoring, averaging 14.8 points per game. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“It was a disappointing loss last year,” said Slidell coach Casey Pierce. “I bring it up about twice a week. Either our lack of play in the loss or what our goals were that we set before the season began. I think [the loss] is in the back of their minds.”

Almost a year later, Slidell is using last season’s playoff hiccup as motivation. Currently on a six-game winning streak and a perfect 4-0 in District 21-A play, the Greyhounds have sprinted out to an 18-5 record.

Returning most of their roster from last season, Slidell has played more man-to-man defense this year to take advantage of their size and length on the perimeter. The switch has paid off, allowing the Greyhounds to pressure the ball and force more turnovers. Slidell is averaging 63.7 points per game this year, while opponents are managing just 42.5 points.

But the Greyhounds are not content with settling for regular season success – even though they are beating teams by an average of 21.2 points.

“I think most of [the players] will tell you if we don’t make it [to the regional tournament] this year, we really didn’t take a step forward from last year,” Pierce said. “It’s not a definer for the season, but it is defining how we classify the season.

“If we don’t make it, most of them will probably think it’s a disappointment. I think that’s the way I would view it. This team is good enough to be a regional tournament team, and that’s where we’re trying to get to.”

Offensively, the Greyhounds have created a more balanced scoring attack – lightening the load on star guard Layton Shelton. Although he is still the team’s leading scorer, averaging 14.8 points per game, Shelton has gotten help from several of his teammates.

At 6-foot-6, post Slayton Pruett is second on the team in scoring, averaging 12 points per game. Shelby Johnson is adding 9.3 a night. Hunter Horner narrowly trails him at 9.2 points. As a team, Slidell is shooting 44.1 percent from the field.

“We can step out on the floor and have four different players or the whole team drop double digits,” Pruett said. “[Our depth] helps us become more balanced.”

Pruett is one of the Greyhounds who has been dropping double digits, and is a dominant force inside for Slidell. Pruett has averaged 16 points during Slidell’s six-game winning streak. He sports the highest field goal percentage on the team at 58.8 percent. He’s also the Greyhounds’ leading rebounder, cleaning the glass to the tune of 8.1 rebounds per game.

Only a sophomore, Pruett has emerged as a bona fide rim protector and interior presence for Slidell.

“Kids miss layups all the time because they have to avoid him” Shelton said. “He alters all kinds of shots. Most of the time he can make a play on the ball and not give up a foul or a bucket.”

As they enter the home stretch of the season, the Greyhounds’ focus now shifts to fine-tuning their play. Despite being ranked sixth in 1A, Slidell is setting its sights much higher.

Not only do they want to get the taste of last February’s loss out of their mouths, the Greyhounds want to go farther – and cut down the nets.

“I think this group has enough playoff experience, depth and skill – I think we’re good enough to be a regional team, and on any given day, I think we’re good enough to be a state team,” Pierce said. “But that’s yet to be proven. We’ve got to take some of those additional steps from last year to get to that point.”

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