Coming into the season, Marc Minatrea knew his backcourt was solid.
What he didn’t know was how his Shoemaker Grey Wolves could replace the scoring and rebounding of Chris Runnels, who graduated, and Jose Roman, who moved to South Carolina.
Now, he knows — sophomore post Torenzo Saunders.
Saunders scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as the Grey Wolves ran past Round Rock 65-44 on Tuesday at Shoemaker.
“It was kind of an unknown because we lost Jose and Chris,” Minatrea said of his post play. “We were so post dominant, but we had three guards backs on a team that won 23 games and a playoff game.
“I don’t know what everyone expects of us, but I know inside our locker room we expect to be successful. We got a win and now it is time to go to Freddy’s and get an ice cream.”
Shoemaker jumped out to an early 9-2 lead as junior guard Shane Johnson converted a three-point play and Saunders got three easy buckets underneath the basket.
“I thought Torenzo did a great job cleaning up on the offensive rebounds,” Minatrea said. “He got a lot better in Mansfield and that is why we go up there.
“I thought he was our best player on the floor tonight.”
The sharpshooting of Larry Sparks got the Dragons back in the game, momentarily. The senior hit a 3-pointer to cut the Grey Wolves lead to 11-7.
However, Saunders grabbed a rebound high above the rim and slammed it home to put Shoemaker up 19-9 at the end of the first quarter. Senior guard Paris Yerry scored on a fast break a minute and a half into the second quarter to cap the 12-2 Grey Wolves run.
But Round Rock got three 3-pointers from three different players to get it back within 25-20.
“As a team I thought we were too amped up for our first real home game of the year,” Minatrea said. “I thought we were out of place a lot defensively, but we were able to beat them down the floor and get a lot of defensive rebounds.”
In the second half, though. Shoemaker got physical.
Punishing the Dragons in the backcourt, the Grey Wolves held Round Rock without a field goal for more than nine minutes.
The only saving grace for the Dragons was that they were a perfect 6-of-6 from the free-throw line.
Shoemaker, meanwhile, was cruising on offense.
Senior guard Renard Thomas drained two 3-pointers and Saunders scored six points off putbacks as the Grey Wolves extended their lead to 42-26.
Sparks hit two more 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter to snap Round Rock’s field goal drought, but the Dragons never pulled closer than 11 points.
“We had a hard weekend and we just came on and put it on for the fans,” Saunders said. “We just played hard. I put it all to the players who influenced me last year, Chris Runnels. I watched him and grew my inspiration from him.”