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By: Eric Van Dril | Jan. 31, 2017
Payton enters each game with a magic number and a goal.
The number is 10.
The young Grizzlies’ goal is to keep each of their opponents under that many offensive rebounds. Doing so has been difficult at times.
“Our guys do a pretty good job of trying to contest shots, but we’ve got to do a better job of finishing plays on defense with rebounds. It’s a huge Achilles’ heel for us,” Payton coach Quinn Peterson said. “(Ten) is like our magic number. When we do that, we’ve won. But it’s really hard for us to do that. We’ve got young guys and they kind of get bumped and pushed around a little bit. We’ve just got to get tougher.”
Payton is at a natural disadvantage in most of its games, especially in the White-North.
Not only are the Grizzlies young — they started a freshman, two sophomores and two juniors against Morton on Sunday, Jan. 29 — but they are often smaller and less athletic than their opponents.
That was the true against Morton, who grabbed 14 offensive rebounds in its 52-45 victory. The Grizzlies (7-14) put up a strong fight despite the taller Mustangs’ second-chance opportunities and the fact they shot 28 more free throws. They couldn’t prevail, however.
Payton, which has just one player who is taller than 6-foot-2, has experienced similar struggles in its matchups with Mather and Schurz. The White-North’s two-best teams are taller, older and more athletic.
“We are a small team,” Payton junior guard Vince Scalise said. “It’s hard when you’ve got guys who are like a foot taller than you. But there are no excuses. We’ve got to box out.”
Payton forward Charlie Pillsbury added: “It’s a whole team effort. … Everyone’s got to box out. Everyone’s got to go hard for the ball.”
It’s also important to be tough, Pillsbury said, and not be intimidated when battling a player like Mather senior forward Dolapo Olayinka. Olayinka is 6-foot-5 and very athletic. He regularly finishes conference games with double-digit rebounds.
“You’ve got to hit him hard with your butt on the first play and send a message,” Pillsbury, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, said. “You’ve just got to keep fighting.”
Boxing out, fighting for boards and rebounding as a team are three important aspects of rebounding effectively for Payton.
Another is instincts, Peterson said.
Instincts and continuing to fight are two reasons why Pillsbury grabbed a team-best nine rebounds against Morton (7-11) and blocked three shots.
“A big part of (rebounding) with our guys is instincts and them playing in games,” Peterson said. “Us playing in open gyms and us playing in summer leagues is going to be something that really helps us out because we’re a step behind on a lot of things. And that just comes from having instincts to go and get the basketball.”
Building strength will be another major point of emphasis during the upcoming offseason.
Payton has continued to lift weights during this season. The Grizzlies do so on Monday mornings and after practice on Thursdays, according to Scalise.
“(Peterson) is definitely trying to help us out in that regard because we’re playing against grown men, basically,” Scalise said. “Whatever we can get, we need.”
In-season lifting has helped Payton’s players improve upon their strength, Pillsbury added. The Grizzlies figure to lift more often during the spring, summer and fall.
That should help Payton hit its magic number more consistently.
“Strength and athleticism are our biggest weaknesses,” Pillsbury said, “so if we work on them in the offseason, we’ll be good for next year.”