By Tyler Thompson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Clever Blue Jays (5-3) never met up with the Hillcrest Hornets a mere weeks back at the 86th annual Clever Invitational Tournament.
Of course, Clever head coach Luke Brosius would have preferred to have a heavy dose of advanced scouting.
As it turned out, missing out on the advanced scouting report didn’t matter as the Jays defeated the Hornets, 57-42, in the Blue Division at the 74th annual Greenwood Blue and Gold Tournament Thursday morning at Hammons Student Center.
The Blue Jays were led by the versatile 6’6” senior, Taylor Genzler (23 points), and junior guard Jake Twigg — who finished with 14 points.
Genzler has 49 points in his previous two games (26 against Aurora), and while he admitted to spending a bit too much time along the perimeter during the opening quarter, a big asset the senior possesses is the ability to make the necessary adjustments on the fly.
“It was definitely harder waking up early since I am on school break,” Genzler said of the 9:30 a.m. tip. “I guess having Christmas yesterday helped a little, getting up a little earlier.”
The Jays were outplayed in the first quarter, as the Hornets owned the intensity level and seemed a bit more awake given the early start time, as senior Jordan Ausler connected for nine points.
Then came the second quarter, when the Blue Jays began exposing the passing lanes, produced some transition buckets, and tightened up the defense as they outscored Hillcrest, 17-14, to take the 26-23 lead to intermission.
“Yeah, we kind of woke up a little bit,” Broisus said of the final three quarters. “We started to play a little bit better. We felt like we didn’t make very good adjustments to start the game. And that is what we talked about at the end in the locker room, making those adjustments a little quicker. We weren’t playing to our strengths, getting the ball down low to ‘Tay’ (Genzler).”
Within that eight-minute span in the second, Josh Reeves connected for the 3-pointer, and Twigg’s effectiveness at lane penetration and his timely 3-pointer benefitted his counterparts.
Genzler followed that up with a trey of his own.
The Jays go as Genzler and Twigg go — which was evident from the momentum swing throughout the final three quarters of play.
“I would say, in the second half, we started attacking the rim more. I think that is when we are at our best — whenever we aren’t settling for the 3-point line,” Genzler said.
A quick Clever turnover could have played into the Hornets’ hands as the third quarter commenced, but, again, Genzler put his team on his shoulders, as he hit the early deuce to maintain momentum and the Jays never looked back.
Twigg’s ability to penetrate the lane while keeping a set of eyes in the back of his head is one of many assets Genzler said his Clever teammate brings to the table each and every day.
Genzler said of Twigg: “He makes it really easy for me. I just have to hover around the rim and he finds me.”
Genzler’s versatility, too, adds another dimension to the Blue Jays’ 2019-20 attack.
Of course, standing 6’6” never hurts, either.
“I am able to finish around the rim,” Genzler said of his attributes. “A lot of people don’t think I can shoot it (3-pointers), but I can. I like to open up the floor like that.”
Genzler finished with six points from beyond the arc.
As the third quarter dwindled to the waning seconds, Clever’s perimeter defense — led by junior Bryce Gelley — forced two turnovers as the Jays closed out the period with the 38-29 lead while keeping the pedal to the metal for the duration.
Genzler said the intensity never wavered after the sluggish first-quarter performance: something in which Brosius’ boys took to heart.
“We were a little frustrated because we didn’t open up like we wanted,” Genzler said. “I was kind of settling around the 3-point line too much. I should have gone to the rim. Once we started doing that, we started getting better.”
From Dalton Fisher to Ryan Farmer to now Twigg, Brosius has had a plethora of court generals in the back court during his tenure in the blue and white, and Twigg simply carries on the longstanding tradition of high-motor guards.
Twigg’s ability to drive, draw the foul and kick out to shooters no matter how many players collapse the lane is a testament to the junior’s constant work ethic — during the season as well as the summer months.
“He brings the energy that everyone else feeds off of,” Brosius said of Twigg. “Ryan was that way, too. Jake is very unselfish. He doesn’t care about his numbers. He just wants to win.”
Hillcrest was led by Jordan Ausler, who led the Hornets with his 16 points — which included 12 from beyond the arc.
With the win, Clever advances to the Blue Division second round as they meet Willard — which is now coached by Jeremy Dresslaer — a former Brosius assistant.
Clever: Genzler (23), Twigg (14), Pellham (9), Gelle (4), Pate (5) and Tennis (2).
Hillcrest: Ausler (16) and Haggard (8) led the Hornets.