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Steady progress lifts Indian River


Indian River boys basketball coach Tim Callahan knew this would be a learning process for his 2012-13 Warriors, what with an almost entirely new squad and players looking to fill roles they weren’t used to.

With patience, attention to detail and hard work every day in practice, Callahan’s team is slowly starting to show signs that they understand. Friday night’s unexpected 64-30 Frontier League “A’’ Division blowout win over host Immaculate Heart Central was simply another step in the ongoing formulation of a team.

After scoring just two points in the first quarter, the Warriors (3-2) netted 62 in the final 24 minutes to deal the Cavaliers (3-4, 2-3) one of their worst defeats in recent memory.

Senior Justin Mattingly scored 15 points, all on 3-pointers, junior Shelton Williams added 14 points and 12 rebounds and sophomore Malik Tillman contributed 12 points, 14 rebounds and six assists as Indian River took control in the second quarter and pulled away in the second half.

For Callahan, it was a just reward for all of his team’s diligence at practice.

“We’re getting better each game, and that’s why every practice is important,’’ Callahan said. “The kids have really been receptive to learning what we need to win, and then have been willing to put in the time to make it work.’’

Mattingly, one of only two seniors on the squad and the only one to see much playing time a year ago, said, “it’s a credit to coach Callahan that he’s been able to bring us together so quickly. It was basically a fresh start, but the guys are willing learners, and now we’re seeing the fruits of our hard work.’’

The way the game started, however, Mattingly wasn’t sure if his team would even hit double digits. The Warriors missed their first 10 shots from the field and didn’t get on the scoreboard until a Marcus Keys layup with just under 23 seconds left in the first quarter.

“We rushed a few shots, missed some easy ones and just didn’t run our offense,’’ Mattingly said. “Once our pressure got us some turnovers, we started playing under control and getting a lot better looks.’’

The good news for Indian River was that IHC managed just four first-quarter points, going 2-for-12 from the floor.

Things immediately improved for the Warriors in the second quarter. Williams drove the length of the floor to tie the game at 4, Mattingly drained a three and the Warriors scored eight quick points to boost the lead to 14-9. A Williams 3-pointer while falling out of bounds as the halftime buzzer sounded gave Indian River a 19-12 lead at intermission.

“Once we got that first hoop the kids settled down and just played,’’ Callahan said. “This is a pretty unselfish group, and they look for one another really well.’’

Things got out of hand quickly in the third quarter. Mattingly hit a pair of threes during a 19-9 run that boosted the Warriors’ lead to 38-14 with 2 1/2 minutes left in the quarter. Indian River eventually outscored IHC 45-18 in the final 16 minutes.

“Our offense consisted of putting our head down, dribbling toward the hoop and throwing up the first shot available,’’ said a frustrated IHC coach Mike Delaney. “It’s my fault that we haven’t stressed making the extra pass and getting a better shot.’’

To that end, IHC shot a woeful 12-for-66 (18 percent) from the floor.

“I thought we had some pretty good shooters,’’ Delaney added. “But when you don’t take good shots, that doesn’t matter.’’

Meanwhile, the Warriors are feeling good about where they are. “But we need to challenge each other every day in practice,’’ Callahan told his kids, “and we can’t be comfortable with where we are.’’

Jude Whalen was the only IHC player to hit double figures with 10 points.

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