Arlee Warriors basketball coach Zanen Pitts is glad his team got a chance to recover and get a week’s worth of rest prior to the Montana State Class-C boys basketball tournament that starts Thursday at the MSU Brick Breeden Fieldhouse in Bozeman.
Pitts admits if they had to start it last week, they wouldn’t be ready.
“We have a lot of players that are getting their legs back under them and getting them healthy has been our priority,” Pitts said. “A lot of our kids got pretty sick but they reacted like you would in an MMA fight and continued to do what we talked about. They were very focused to that point and that break allowed our boys to get their bodies back under them.”
Pitts admits his team has had solid practices despite recovering from a bout with two ear infections, two sinus infections, strep throat, and the common flu.
“Our last few practices were really good practices,” Pitts said. “This Tuesday we will finally know who we are playing and run our first scouting drills. One of our two teams will talk about that (earlier in the week) a little bit.”
Pitts also admits he is glad his Warriors had a week to recover.
“We were blessed to have that extra week off,” Pitts admits.
Despite being hobbled, the Warriors were able to make a successful recovery.
“Thursday was the first day they felt 100 percent and we didn’t exert them,” Pitts said. “Some of these teams that we will be facing in the tournament will be big and powerful. They are just as tough and we are going to rely on our ability to be healthy (during the tournament).”
Pitts knows because of his team’s lack of size headed into the tournament that they are going to have to play what he refers to as “small ball.”
“I plan on us being undersized most of the tournament,” Pitts admits. “I think when you don’t have a lot of size, it makes it very tough. But it is how you deal with (the size difference) and we have the athletes. We have Ty, Will and the freakish athlete that Phillip is. Greg Whitesell plays bigger than he is and Alex understands his abilities. We have the basketball IQ to be at the same level as the big guys the majority of the time.”
Pitts equated the term “small ball” with the NBA and collegiate levels.
“Small ball is way better in the NBA because you are talking about guys that are 6-3 and our average height is 5-9,” Pitts said. “We will be playing guys that are still 6-5 and 6-6, and that is definitely extra small ball. We have guys that know how to rebound and we have worked on it a lot since we lost to Plains. That is the mindset we have to have. Plains exploited our weaker areas and when we were up against a bigger, more powerful team like Manhattan Christian, they just killed us on the boards. If we get killed on the boards, that will be the end of our season.”
Pitts said he felt his team needs to rebound within eight to 12 rebounds of the opposition as they prepare for state.
“If we get beat by 20 on the boards, that is just scary,” Pitts said. “That is not good and we will lose.”
Pitts made the eight-hour trip to Miles City to scout the Southern Divisional tournament that took place earlier this week.
Pitts admitted his scouting trip was “difficult” to make along with all of the other preparations for state.
“It was tough getting back this morning and there was a bad storm,” Pitts said. “What I did take from both Bridger and Plenty Coups is that they are extremely well coached. PC likes to push the basketball and they shoot it after two or three passes. If they are hitting their shots, they are going to win. Melstone had a young team with two sophomores, two freshman and two foreign exchange students. They have some good players and they are really well coached. Their team won a championship in 2007. We will see who we play.”
Pitts admits, looking at his starting five, they don’t have a lot of State playoff experience when it comes to court time.
“When you play in a championship (like we did last season), it really ages your boys,” Pitts said. “Ty and Phil started. Greg probably played five minutes, Alex played three minutes, and there are only four of the players (from last year’s team) that even were on the floor in that championship game.”
Pitts said he has taken advantage of new mediums like Hudl and because of technology, he gets to watch more film than he ever would prior to the advent of the internet.
“I have five tabs of game highlights going on my phone and I’ll take a couple of days to look at different stuff,” Pitts said. “I am the kind of guy that I don’t like technology’s progression. I would like to sleep out in a cabin, ride a horse to work, watch a DVR, and get a hot shower but with the invention of things like Hudl, it’s just common sense. You have to use it.”
Pitts said now that state has arrived they just need to stay focused.
“There isn’t much more that we can do now,” Pitts said. “If we aren’t ready, I’ve done my part and they’ve accepted their part. Honestly, I believe that we are as ready as we are going to be.”