By Brian Paglia
Front row. First chair on the right. An empty lecture hall. That's where Drew boys basketball coach Jarrod Davis went Tuesday night after the Titans reminded him how young teams seem to always grow.
Davis slouched, his eyes heavy and only slightly open, his head held up by his arm, his thoughts in a daze after watching his team trail by as much as 19 points in the third quarter against Mt. Zion only to come back to life for a 72-65 win Tuesday.
For two-and-a-half quarters, Drew missed open lay-ups and threw away errant passes. Just like a second-year program.
For a quarter-and-a-half, the Titans were unstoppable.
"That's been all season," Davis said.
"I don't know, I guess we just have to get the crowd into it," said Titans junior Eloka Olisa, who had a team-high 17 points and 11 rebounds.
The Titans (6-1, 6-1 Region 4-AAA) gave their crowd little to respond to.
When Mt. Zion guard Demarcus Robinson hit the seventh of his eight 3s on the night, giving the Bulldogs (2-7, 2-5 Region 4-AAAA) a 48-29 lead early in the third quarter, Drew hit a low-point.
Despite a significant height advantage, the Titans were getting out-rebounded. Despite an array of skilled guards, the Titans were whipping passes out of bounds. Despite an inventory of close-game experiences already this season, the Titans were letting this game get out of hand.
"We're so young, and in certain parts of the game our youth comes out," Davis said.
"We just lose sight of certain things. For some reason we were just kind of flat."
Then Drew's youngsters summoned new life like it has so many times this season. Sophomore Sidney Scurbuck made two free throws.
Junior Ray Evola (eight points, 10 rebounds) grabbed an offensive rebound and made a lay-up. Olisa got a steal and took it for an easy lay-up.
By the 5:04 mark of the fourth quarter, Scurback had tied the game at 56 with a free throw. Despite missing the second one, Scurbuck got his own rebound, put up a quick jumper and gave the Titans the lead for good.
"(Coach Davis) said we had to attack," Olisa said.
"We knew we had to play better, pick up the intensity of defense and play hard."
The record is good, but the Titans' method of earning that record has been hard. They've played in three overtime games -- three in a row at one point -- and one double-overtime contest.
But they're catching the eye -- and the ire, to some degree -- of the Southern Crescent.
They are good, so coaches are scrambling to scout the Titans, wondering how it is this second-year school is off to such a strong start.
Yet they are a team constructed of players from various schools across the county, so teams are eager to defeat them.
So far this season that's been tough to do.
With good shooters (Cory Graves, Miles Cosby, Robert Gentile), great depth inside (Evola, Antonio Garcia, Quadedious Tyler) and a Olisa, a dynamic scorer, the Titans have -- for one half, at least -- been one of the better teams in the Southern Crescent.
By design, Davis wanted to mix his roster with juniors and sophomores and let them mature together.
Turns out, they may be maturing faster than even he expected.
"The make-up of it is to establish a tradition," Davis said.
"My pre-game speech (Tuesday) was our destination begins today, because if we can run the table this second half, we could be sitting in good shape.
If we can keep the games close, I feel like we've got enough scorers that we can get some things done.
"But, who knows?"