John Bauersfeld believes Pinecrest’s boys basketball team is beginning to peak.
After last week, it’s difficult to argue with him.
The Paladins (11-9, 7-5 Region 6-1A Private) played spoiler in two games last week, knocking off No. 2 Walker, 69-64, just four days after handing No. 4 Mount Pisgah a 59-56 loss on Tuesday.
Mount Pisgah had just three losses entering the game. In fact, Pinecrest nearly gave Mount Pisgah its first loss of the season in December, when the Paladins pushed the Patriots to overtime in a 71-65 game.
The difference this time around?
“I think for us, just being able to score consistently, because we’ve defended really well all year,” Bauersfeld said. “Against teams like Pisgah and Walker that can score quickly and in bunches, you’ve got to maintain some consistency offensively to stay in the game with them. We were able to do that. I thought we shot the ball well, and we worked to get open shots and then we finished them, which was really a key for us.
“I think that was really the biggest key, because our defensive effort has been great all year. They’ve been great on the defensive end.”
Senior Caleb Bohn, who recently scored his 1,000th career point, combined for 38 points in the two wins, and he hit five 3-pointers in Saturday’s win against Walker.
The victory vindicated Pinecrest’s 87-61 loss to Walker on Dec. 14.
“I was just really happy for them,” Bauersfeld said. “I think we’ve been struggling to score for a couple weeks and, in the last two games, they’ve just found a nice groove and are really playing together. They were making tough shots, and it was just fun to watch.”
Part of that is the development of Pinecrest’s underclassmen.
Three of the Paladins’ top four scorers this year are sophomores – Tony Carpio, JJ Hayes and Oscar Lynch – and have accounted for nearly 50 percent of the team’s offense.
Carpio gives Pinecrest a physical inside presence (19 blocks), while Hayes leads the team in rebounds (119) and Lynch has scored in double figures in 14 of 19 games this season (13.5 points per game).
“I’m happy in the last week or so about the emergence of our sophomores, (who) have really been a lot more consistent,” Bauersfeld said. “We knew they were always talented, but they really played with some consistency last week as far as going both ends of the floor and having confidence on both ends.”
Another part is getting the team fully healthy, with seniors Josh Boeye and Hank Lynch each missing time this season because of injury.
Boeye started the season with a 15-point performance in the opener and had 16 points a week later, while Lynch averaged 10.4 in his first five games.
“We had some injuries through November, December and I think we were just getting frustrated that we couldn’t kind of get on the same page,” Bauersfeld said. “We had a couple tough losses – we lost to Hebron, we lost to Pisgah earlier in the year in overtime, which was a tough loss. We lost a tough one to (Mount) Paran right before last week.”
Pinecrest’s record might not impress, but remember six of the top 10 teams in Class 1A Private reside in the Paladins’ region, including 18-3 St. Francis, a juggernaut that has lost to just one Georgia team all year.
Pinecrest, which is currently ranked No. 7, will travel to Fellowship Christian and Mount Bethel this week, but a Jan. 28 matchup against St. Francis looms.
Pinecrest is 3-1 this season when facing teams for the second time, and for the Paladins to continue that trend, the they’ll need to stick to the script.
“The same thing: You can’t turn the ball over and you’ve got to make shots against them, because they can score so quickly,” Bauersfeld said. “They’re just so powerful offensively. If you limit your turnovers and try to eliminate their easy baskets as much as possible, that’s about the only way you can hang in there with them.”