Young Sterling Heights boys basketball team hoping to peak in postseason
The record said 4-4, but the Sterling Heights High boys basketball team is seven points away from being 6-2 after a couple of recent close losses.
That gives Stallions coach Mike Griffin optimism, since his team is so young. Sterling Heights didn’t return one starter.
Junior Mark Berishaj, in his first year as a varsity player, leads the Stallions in scoring, at 21 points per game.
“It’s not like we’re rehashing things for them. They’re learning new things every day,” Griffin said. “They’ve only learned about half of the schemes we want to run.”
“I see a lot of progress in practice every day,” Berishaj said. “We’re doing a good job at picking things up.”
What Griffin wants to run includes a pressing, trapping full-court defense, along with a strong, halfcourt man-to-man approach. Because of the team’s youth, it has run a lot of matchup zone early in the season.
“That’s what we did early on because that was the easiest thing for them to execute at that point in the season,” said Griffin, whose team sat at 1-2 in the Macomb Area Conference Gold Division at press time. The Stallions haven’t won a league title since 1993.
In its first eight games, Sterling Heights has allowed 46.0 points per game — second best in the seven-team MAC Gold. Only six teams in the entire MAC have stingier defenses than the Stallions.
“We know we’re not the biggest team, but size isn’t always the most important thing. You have to want it more than the other team when you’re on the court, and we do,” said senior forward Fannr Korkis, who leads Sterling Heights in rebounds and assists.
Offensively, Sterling Heights looks to run a “five out” set, in which each player on the floor sets up outside of the paint. That particular attack lends itself to a majority of perimeter shots and long rebounds. That means the Stallions must put an added emphasis on crashing the glass.
Griffin said his philosophy is to send four players to the glass off any shot.
“We know our offense calls for us to be strong on the boards,” junior guard Jimmy Turner said. “It’s all about boxing out and putting a body on your man. If we do that, we’ll be fine.”
With a couple more made buckets, a .500 record could be better. But Griffin puts the close losses in perspective.
“Being in games like that gets you ready for the postseason,” he said. “We’re not gonna get blown out and we won’t blow a lot of teams out, so we’re gonna be in a lot of tight games. We’ve got to find a way to win those.”
Sterling Heights next hits the court for a matchup with Anchor Bay, set for 7 p.m. Jan. 24 at Anchor Bay.