By: Joshua Gerard Gargiulo
PHOENIX - A lively Duane Eason is sighing in relief, as the buzzer sounds and the Bears’ first-year Head Coach can cross another goal off his list: winning his first conference game. As the Bears rout the South Mountain Cougars 87-69.
A technical foul assessed to South Mountain before the game commenced, for dunk during warm-ups, granted the Bears’ an early 1-0 start. A basket from Darius Goudeau, followed by back-to-back threes from Goudeau and teammate Deron Kyle, flexed the lead to 9-0, in the first two minutes.
The Bears’ defensive emphasis was strong, out of the gate. Eason cited their different defensive sets, as the key to their “hot start.” The Cougars’ first points did not come until, almost a quarter of the way through the first half, a Carlos Tovias 3-pointer. Finally ending an eventual 19-0 run by Phoenix College.
Ball facilitation picked up for PC guards, quickly, as the assists came one-after-another. The Bears’ dishing out eight of their 19 assists, in as many minutes.
No assist is scored without a made basket. All five starters were feeling each other. Eason also felt his guys played their most fluid game yet. Finding ways to incorporate big-men Alfredo Fuentes and Ahmed Levon, both used their size to create down-low, which helped the Bears’ close out the half up, 48-28.
The size of the Bears has been a determining factor, early in the season. At times, lacking the grit and determination to dominate the glass or simply use their size, some games have gone better than others.
True, sophomore forward Ahmed Levon has been a crucial mentor to the young freshman: Gomes and Fuentes. As a stretch-three, Levon saw highs-and-lows with Coach Gordon, but the transition to playing a true-four in Eason’s system has been tough for the “three-point specialist.” Regardless, Levon has shown his ability to score, with three double-digit games, out of six- so far.
“Ahmed has the ability to be a big-time player for us, but he is not use to always being in-the-post. He loves to shoot that three, and it’s a major part of his game,” Eason said.
Alfredo Fuentes came two points shy of a double-double last night and has finally begun to find his role in Eason’s up-tempo style of play. He compiled a stat line of 8 points and 10 rebounds, shooting 3-4 from the field, and perfect from the line; as he saw an increased role in last night’s play with the absence of 6’9 forward, Christiano Gomes.
“Being out of basketball for so long, four years in his case, it’s hard to get back into the feel of ‘organized basketball,’ something these kids fresh out of High School are continuing,” Eason said.
Alfredo sees a lot of differences in college basketball from his days in High School. He sees the game, at this level, as much more “physical” and “fast-paced.” Wednesday night’s game was a much-anticipated, coming-out party.
Fuentes said, “I felt more comfortable out there. … I think I’m starting to be more physical, and my conditioning is getting better. I definitely felt good.”
Although South Mountain out-scored Phoenix College 41-39 in the second half, the 20-point cushion could not be chipped into- by game’s end.
An assist from Kenny Sutton to Alfredo Fuentes opened the second half scoring. A time-out by South Mountain, two minutes in, threw the Bears tempo for the next few minutes; as the lead was nearly cut to 10. A Kenny Sutton block and three-pointer (assisted by Fuentes) with about 12:30 left switched the second half momentum back in the Bears’ favor.
The Bears hit cruise control as the teams alternated baskets for most of the second-half. Despite a poor second-half shooting performance, all the Bears’ needed to do was maintain their distance. Deron Kyle (23 pts) and Darius Goudeau (22 pts) matched those numbers in plus/minus and Goudeau recorded his third double-double of the season. Trey Mitchell facilitated to teammates, and Alfredo Fuentes and Ahmed Levon alternated guarding the kingdom.
“We are looking better- out there. I’m glad we have players like Trey, who can facilitate and get all of his teammates involved. He is really someone we can rely on,” Eason said.
Trey Mitchell is the “most important player on the floor” to coach Eason. He believes Trey is what allows this team to facilitate so well. Reciting the idea: without your point guard on the floor, there is no one to distribute the ball and direct traffic. Mitchell is currently averaging 11.7 PPG and 5.2 APG but could see both of those stats double with a few more shots falling for him and his teammates.
The ball is finally rolling for the Bears. The Bears will take a rest day before traveling to play Mesa Community College on Saturday, December 1st, at 4:00pm. Followed by a seven-game homestand, kicked off with Chandler-Gilbert on Wednesday, December 5th, at 7:30pm. Mesa Community College is located at: 1833 W. Southern Ave, Mesa, AZ 85202.