Combine Academy captures 63-45 win over Liberty Heights
Phenom Hoops travelled to Lincolnton, North Carolina to cover a key match-up between two of the top non-association teams in the state. Liberty Heights came into the contest with a 13-5 record while Combine Academy sported a 16-8 record. Both teams have played a tough and challenging national schedule and the game at Combine Academy was a precursor of the inaugural Phenom Hoop State Championship that will be held March 5-7.
Combine Academy moves to 17-8 and will probably go into the Phenom Hoop State Championship as the number two seed. Coach Jeff McInnis had to be pleased with the overall performance of his young and talented team as 11 different players got into the scoring act.
6’6 sophomore Jalen Hood-Schifino led the way with a game high 15 points. Hood-Schifino scored from all three levels and connected on two early 3-pointers. In addition, he had a nearly flawless floor game. Hood-Schifino pushed the tempo and his ability to dribble penetrate, attack the gaps, and make pitch ahead passes were impressive. We were also impressed with his fearless approach in attacking the rim where he finished with contact.
Keys to the game
Balance, balance and more balance
Coach Jeff McInnis has built one of the top teams in the state regardless of class or affiliation. More importantly, he has a team that has balance and plenty of depth. In the impressive home win over Liberty Heights, eleven different players got into the scoring column which is a great testament to the culture coach McInnis has built in such a short period of time. We were also impressed with the unselfish play and the willingness to make the extra pass.
Defense, defense and more defense
Combine Academy has built a reputation of being one of the best defensive teams in the state in terms of “team defense” and applying tremendous pressure on the opposing ball handler. In addition, they force teams baseline, provide tremendous weak side help and are exceptional at timely double teams. Championship teams are built upon defense and Combine Academy is on the right track to compete for the coveted inaugural Phenom Hoop State Championship.
Never quit attitude
Liberty Heights never found the rhythm on the offensive end of the court, but one thing is crystal clear. No matter the score, coach Mike Wright’s players won’t give up. They battle, hustle and even dove on the floor for loose balls in the final minutes of the game. This alone speaks volume on the mindset and culture that coach Wright has engrained in his team.
Waiting his turn
5’11 freshman Kennard Davis is going to be a really good player; his time is coming. In Combine’s win over Liberty Heights, 11 different players got into the scoring column. While Davis’ name will be missing in the box score, one has to be impressed with his overall attitude and infectious smile. Splitting time between the regional and national team, the freshman Davis doesn’t get a lot of minutes. That being said, we come away impressed each and every game. We’re talking about a young man that sees the big picture. He doesn’t sulk or pout while sitting on the bench. He is engaged, energetic and always showing support for his teammates and when his number is called, he rushes immediately to the scorer’s table. Once in the game, he is hustling and doing his best to make a contribution, whether it is making a defensive stop or making the extra pass to an open teammate. Trust me, his time is coming and is going to be an integral part of Combine’s long-term success.