COVENTRY TWP. Call the first month of the season puzzling for the Coventry Comets - literally.
The basketball season isn’t yet halfway done and the Comets have found themselves trying to piece themselves together in the early weeks of the campaign.
Third-year head coach Mike DiFalco and his staff are working to put the various new faces on the roster in the right spots and find a winning formula for a squad that looks much different than it did one year ago.
“We have a lot of new pieces, a lot of new faces, so day by day, we just need to get better. We have to work on the things we’re not so good at right now … defensively, we have to get a lot better,” DiFalco said. “Offensively, we need to become more efficient, but we’re making that progress and slowly but surely, you can see it coming along.”
The results have been mixed, but skewed toward the positive so far. A 3-2 record and 2-1 Portage Trail Conference mark through five games provided a hint of a team capable of having a winning season, but the fifth game in that stretch also highlighted some of the concerns currently plaguing the Comets.
An 80-75 home win over Ravenna showcased a Coventry offense that can be explosive, but also a defense that has had spurts when it isn’t consistent in reading plays and being in the right position. The Ravens entered the game winless and left the same way, but posted 75 points and kept the game close despite 25 points from Coventry senior guard Jaret Griffith.
Griffith, who transferred into the district after playing at a prep school in Maine last season, is one of two players DiFalco pointed to as focal points for the Coventry attack thus far.
"Ronnie Thompson, our starting point guard, has been great so far offensively and defensively. Jaret Griffith is averaging a ton of points a game, so those two guys are leading the way offensively,” DiFalco said. “We just need a couple more guys to contribute and put it all together.”
Griffith is just one of the new pieces on the roster and along with Thompson, represents the fact that the team’s two leading scorers weren’t part of the team one season ago. Given that there are so many new pieces and parts, DiFalco and assistant coaches Cameron Black and Devon McAfee have had to work to figure out who belongs where on the court.
As such, a few struggles are to be expected. The question is whether those uncertainties can be resolved in time for the Comets to make a run at the PTC Metro title.
“It’s to be expected with a young team and a bunch of guys that have never played together. We had so summer prep, we had a short preseason, so these first five or six games are acting as our preseason to get some of these things figured out,” DiFalco said. “As long as we keep moving in the right direction and make those adjustments, I think we’re going to be just fine.”
Of immense value could be a 14-day stretch between the team’s final game of 2018 and its Jan. 4 contest against neighborhood rival Springfield to kick off the new year. According to DiFalco, the team will have practices over winter break, but there will be a lighter schedule to allow both coaches and players to enjoy the holiday and spend time with their families. The rest could be a huge benefit to any players nursing injuries or needing fresh legs heading into the busiest and most challenging portion of the schedule.
Looking ahead to that remainder of the schedule, DiFalco knows positive traction and good chemistry for his team are priorities.
“I like our effort … I never feel really that we’re giving a lack of effort defensively … we just have to become a little bit smarter. We have to be more efficient in what we do and figure out how we can fit the pieces of the puzzle to be at our best. It’s a tight-knit group and they enjoy playing with one another,” DiFalco said, adding that closing out the calendar year well is a priority. “You want to go into it with some momentum. We’re going to be about through the league the first time around and you want to be guns blazing going into the second stretch.”
The third-year head coach knows there will be steps forward and steps back along the way, but is optimistic that the puzzle will come together in time.
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