Five Questions: Hopkinsville-Whitehaven

High School

Posted On: 12/28/17 7:39 PM

Whitehaven and Hopkinsville clashed early Thursday evening.  Whitehaven won 62-45.  The game gave @PrepHoopsTN a chance to ask and answer five key questions.

Can Whitehaven get more from their frontcourt?

Head Coach Faragi Phillips addressed his team’s troubling frontcourt play after Wednesday night’s game.

Thursday night Cam Jones (Jacksonville State signee) created so many problems for Hopkinsville.  The bouncy forward solved the zone by settling into the high paint.  Using his soft hands to collect the basketball, Jones caught and then finished multiple nice passes.

“The main thing you try to teach your kids is that life is about giving up something for the betterment of someone else,” said Whitehaven Head Coach Faragi Phillips.

Coach Phillips was enamored with the 15 assists Whitehaven dished out.

“It is not a coincidence that if you share the wealth and play within the system of our team…then it makes it easier for everybody to play,” said Coach Phillips.

Which team will drop two straight?

Hopkinsville and Whitehaven are tradition-rich programs that don’t take losing lightly.  After this game one of the two teams will be mired in the 7th/8th Place Game Friday afternoon.

The answer was Hopkinsville.

Hopkinsville struggled mightily with the Whitehaven pressure.  Their coach hounded multiple players, admonishing their mistakes.  It was a frustrating loss for the lone Kentucky participant in the NXT LVL Nashville field.

Will Whitehaven be able to rattle point guard Jalen Johnson?

Yes.  Unsigned senior Jalen Johnson is an accomplished high school high school quarterback and point guard.  He has seen plenty of pressuring defenses.  Ordinarily he  breaks them apart with confidence and strength.

Whitehaven managed to knock him off that stable platform though.

In the third quarter, Hopkinsville struggled to score.  Heck, they struggled to advance beyond halfcourt.  Whitehaven threw a fullcourt press at Hopkinsville and the primary ballhandler couldn’t escape the Tiger clutches.

Johnson left the game early in the fourth quarter with a left knee injury.

“We were able to get 13 steals tonight,” said Coach Phillips.  “I thought we had more.   We turned them over 24 times and we were able to turn that into points in transition because we shared the ball, made the extra pass.”

Where will Hopkinsville get their scoring?

It turns out…they won’t.   Hopkinsville scored only 16 points in the second half.  For the game the Tigers shot a disturbing 32.6% from the floor.

Alijah Watts scored seven points.  Jalen Johnson gave eight points, but he was swamped with pressure and left the game early with a left knee injury.  Jacarus Burks scored nine points and Bryce Smith lead all Hopkinsville Tigers with 10 points.

Whitehaven, on the other hand, found scoring from Cameron Johnson (16 points) and Matthew Murrell (18 points).  Sophomore starters Jesse Payne and Alvin Miles each scored eight points with five rebounds.  Simmie Jones III scored nine points in the win.

What tempo will they play?

Hopkinsville tends to be a gritty team with lots of creative traps and pressures.  Historically, Hopkinsville thrived with aggressive, jumping defense.  Whitehaven really likes to make hay off their defense and Coach Phillips labels this a good defensive team without a superstar scorer.

Would the game be high-scoring?  Low scoring?

The Tigers didn’t put the ball in the basket consistently in the halfcourt, but they figured out a way to speed up the Hoptown guars.  Whitehaven’s length at the wing position made those desperate trap-busting passes less common.

Most of the game both teams played slow, measured until they found little pockets of space.  Like a running back hunting for a running lane, the hyper-athletic guards and wings hunted holes for penetration.  It was not easy. Both teams closed those holes quickly and astutely.

On this night Hopkinsville was unable to play quick and over and over the mighty Hoptown Tigers hurried into a turnover.

“When you share the ball that way there is just something magical with the ball having positive energy,” said Coach Phillips.

The Whitehaven Tigers meet Friday evening at 7:00 P.M. to battle for 5th Place.

For all the best statewide coverage of Tennessee follow @PrepHoopsTN.