ROCKTON- Mike Miller could look up and down his roster and easily ascertain one thing: If they are to have a successful season, overcoming some disadvantages in the athleticism department was a must.
The Indians had their first test of that idea Friday night against Rockford Auburn, and the results weren't exactly positive.
The Indians trailed for nearly the entire game and fell 63-53 to drop to 1-1 in NIC-10 play.
Hononegah's backcourt, which was missing a key piece in Drew Grygiel (illness), struggled mightily all evening against the intense pressure the Knights were applying.
Two scoring droughts helped to seal the Indians' fate.
The first came in the first quarter after Hononegah established an early 7-5 lead. The Knights finished the quarter with a 10-run to take a 15-7 lead. The clamps remained on the Indians offense in the second quarter as they scored just 12 points to trail 29-19 at intermission.
Hononegah's second drought came in the third quarter, when they failed to score for nearly six minutes, leading to a 40-26 deficit after three quarters.
Hononegah scored 27 in the fourth quarter, thanks mostly to a chase-and-foul strategy employed by Hononegah coach Mike Miller down the stretch that lengthened the game. Hononegah climbed within single digits but could never get within two possessions of the Knights.
Nick Pierson led the Indians with 16 points, while Chris Akelaitis hit four treys for 12 points. Trent Devries scored eight of his 11 points in the second half.
"The question that we have to find out is how can we complete passes against athleticism," Miller said. "I thought Auburn did a very good job on making it hard on the catch on the perimeter. After that, whoever had the ball, it turned into a one-on-one contest, and that's not to our advantage. A lot of that is on our coaching staff to figure out ways to help our kids. It's easy to say 'Well, you should do this or do that', but when you've got some guy that's quicker than heck, that's really tough to handle."
But Miller also said some simple things his team didn't do everything it needed to in order to better the situation.
"One of the things we didn't do it help each other," Miller said. "One of the ways you can do that is with movement: Either ball movement or player movement. Our screening was abysmal. Our passing was abysmal. Our best chance was Nick going one-on-one, and he played well, but it was Nick alone. As a staff, I don't think we did a great job helping these guys with handling the pressure. It's something we will definitely look harder at, because we've got some more games like this coming on the schedule."
Pierson said the Indians simply must be tougher.
"The only real choice we have against teams like that is to be more physical," Pierson said. "Our practices are nothing like what we saw tonight. We don't have guys that can get in our guards' faces and defend them like that. We just have to play with more intensity and take it to the next level. We've got to improve on everything."
The Indians will play at Jefferson Wednesday night in what will be another stern test.