BELTON With a relatively young and inexperienced roster, Belton boys basketball coach John Osborn expected there'd be some retrofitting to be worked out.
What he didn't expect was for Round Rock McNeil to expose all the structural flaws at once in a 65-40 drubbing Monday evening at Tiger Gym. "We're what you'd call a work-in-progress, and we've put up the orange cones and put out the tape we're under construction and we're still trying to figure it out," Osborn said.
From nearly the opening tip, Round Rock McNeil controlled nearly every aspect of the game, especially inside the paint, where the Mavericks outrebounded Belton 41-25, many of which resulted in second-chance opportunities under the basket.
"It was pretty rough out there, a lot of bumping and pushing, but I told the guys, 'You've got to adapt to the officials, that's just part of (the varsity game),'" Osborn said. "That's part of being young and not understanding that, because at the lower levels, you don't get hit like that and it not be a foul.
"So it was good we played a physical team like this, because that's going to be more like what we'll see in district."
Following a one-handed dunk by Belton's 6-foot-3 junior forward Daniel Mills, cutting the Mavericks' advantage to 12-8 with five minutes to play in the first quarter, McNeil answered with a quick dribble-drive layup by talented sophomore guard Trey Dilworth to spark an 8-0 run for its first double-digit lead, 20-8.
"When you get put in a situation like that against a good team that can really shoot the ball ... you end up having to do things that are out of what you want to do," Orborn said. "And with a young team, that's hard to do."
After trailing 36-21 at halftime, the Tigers scored three times in the first minute of the second half, all on layups off transition by Trey Rose, Mills and junior Byron Brown to pull within 37-27.
But Belton couldn't sustain the momentum as Dilworth answered again with a mid-range jumper and, following a missed 3-pointer by Thomas Barnes, Mavericks senior wing Jacob Jiongo drilled one of his three 3-pointers of the night to start a 17-3 run to end the third quarter with a commanding 54-30 advantage.
"Our identity isn't quite there," Osborn said. "We're still trying to figure out who the starting lineup's going to be, because each guy shows up at different times."
The Mavericks were paced by the steady scoring of Jiongo's game-high 15 points, along with 11 points apiece from Dilworth and senior guard Hayden Worrell.
Featuring only one returning starter, the Tigers appeared lost at times on offense, unable to convert simple layups or fast-break opportunities, managing a dismal 15-of-49 (31 percent) field goal percentage including 5-of-22 (23 percent) from outside the arc.
"When you have opportunities to score and you're right there, you get so excited sometimes you rush your shot instead of really going and finishing it off," Osborn said.
Mills led the Belton (1-3) scoring with a meager 10 points and pulled down 11 of the team's 31 rebounds.
"This is good for us. We get to come in here, watch film, we get to make corrections and we get to see if we can continue to do better the next time," Osborn said. "And we'll continue to do better until Dec. 20 when we play Shoemaker."
Contact Alex Byington at email@example.com or (254) 501-7566.