Marty Garcia wanted to change the mindset and culture of Temple boys basketball in his first season as the Wildcats’ coach. With two games remaining in the season, he feels like he has made plenty of progress toward achieving that goal.
“The major goal this year was to change how our basketball players approach the game,” Garcia said. “We’ve definitely come in this first year and changed the mindset and the culture, that mediocrity is not acceptable. We’re going to work hard every day. We’re going to play tough and we’re going to play together.”
In a performance that typified their season, the Wildcats played tough and played together Tuesday night but made too many mistakes late in a 49-42 loss to the Killeen Kangaroos in a District 8-5A game at Wildcat Gym.
“I thought we came out and we battled,” Garcia said. “We did what we needed to do to put ourselves in position to win the game. Late in the game there, we got careless with the basketball on a couple possessions. When you don’t take care of the basketball late, they’re going to do what they’re going to do. They hit some free throws there late to kind of ice it.”
Jordan Lee scored on a putback early in the fourth quarter that gave Temple (9-17, 3-9) a 38-34 advantage, before Killeen (21-9, 8-4) outscored the Wildcats 15-4 the remainder of the game. The Kangaroos drained 13 of 18 free throws in their game-ending run to seal the outcome.
“It’s kind of hard to win games when your opponent shoots 48 free throws and you shoot nine,” Garcia said. “It’s kind of difficult to win games when as a team you have 33 fouls and your opponent has 13. I’m not saying anything, but it is what it is.”
Mikell Clark led the Kangaroos with 15 points while Brian Long added 12. Sophomore guard Logan Hicks led the Wildcats with 12 points, while Lee had 10.
Lee, a junior post, said that Garcia has taught the team a lot this season. The biggest change has been an increase in intensity on the defensive end.
“We’ve accomplished a lot this season,” Lee said. “And next year we expect to take it even further.”
Sophomore forward Sterling Brown said the team’s attitude has definitely changed for the better under Garcia.
“We’ve got more wins than last year for one, that’s an accomplishment,” Brown said. “We came together as team and got better individually. This year we’ve made improvements all around. We’ve got a winning attitude and everything’s changed. We’re going to start working out early and try to come back better next year.”
With just four seniors on its varsity roster, Temple returns several key players next season.
“That definitely gives us some building blocks for the last two games and definitely going into next year,” Garcia said. “We graduate four seniors, of course (senior guard) Wendale (Washington) sees the bulk of the minutes. But we’ve got the rest of them coming back. They’re all sophomores and juniors and we’ve even got a couple freshmen out there with us.
“So the future is very bright. It doesn’t look very bright right now, but we can definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel.”