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Boys basketball: Lockdown: Defense key in Coppell's transition under Pehl
By Justin Thomas, firstname.lastname@example.org
In its first season under head coach Kit Pehl, Coppell's boys basketball team has experienced its fair share of growing pains.
But in a Nov. 27 victory against Allen (61-41), something clicked. The results have been rapid improvement for the Cowboys, in particular on the defensive end of the ball as the squad continues its preparation for the District 5-5A campaign.
"We're doing pretty well," Pehl said. "We started with a tournament in San Antonio where we were able to get a lot of games in. It gave us a good period to adjust because there are a lot of changes to our system.
The biggest difference under Pehl has been in Coppell's man-to-man principles and where the Cowboys want to force the ball and send help.
With a youthful roster with limited varsity experience, that has taken time.
"We have very little returning minutes," Pehl said. "We have a couple of seniors, but a vast majority of the team was on junior varsity last year. The transition has been easier, though, just because the kids play so hard. That's been engrained already from the past and their level of intensity on the court isn't something we haven't had to overcome at all. It's just been a change in system."
Pehl has also seen an improvement on the offensive end as a direct result of the progress defensively.
While Coppell is full of youth, quality bodies are something the Cowboys aren't lacking.
"We're pretty deep," Pehl said. "We've played as many as 11 or 12 guys in games. And we have a nice balance of interior and perimeter players. So far, we've had eight different leading scorers. It's just a matter of who steps up on a certain evening and that's something that is unique to teams I have coached before."
The depth also gives Pehl multiple options to put on the court depending on the opponent.
Point guards for Coppell include Walter Munnings, who brings varsity experience, and Landon Goesling, a move-in from California.
"They'll even play together some at times," Pehl said. "Walter is one of our better defenders and Landon has helped out offensively. He is one of four or five guys who are getting between eight and 10 points per game."
At the 2-guard, Cowboy contributors include Cody Carver and Brandon Watson.
"Cody is as good of a defender as he is an offensive player and brings a lot of length to the table," Pehl said. "Brandon has really been coming on lately offensively. He is a guy that can play a little point, too, if we need him to. There are times where we have three or even four guards on the court at the same time if it is advantageous to us."
Calvin Michaelis provides additional depth and shooting at guard.
"He can shoot it and arguably won the game for us with his shooting when we were going against Frisco Centennial's zone," Pehl said.
Rounding out the perimeter players are guards Clay Kemp and Ike Obialo.
Josh Feitl brings a defensive presence and handles small forward for Coppell. He is also a productive rebounder for the Cowboys and can stretch the floor from the perimeter. Feitl is supported by Carver and Chad Kaiser (when Coppell is looking for additional size).
Up front, Coppell will look to posts Simi Socks, Patrick Barden, Everett Schau and Kaiser. John Herubin is also making the transition from football.
"Our four and five spots are pretty interchangeable," Pehl said. "They play physical and do a good job defensively and with rebounding. Since our defense has began to meet our expectations, we've been rebounding pretty well. Second-chance points are an area of the game where we have been winning.
"Offensively, Simi has really started to establish himself as our most capable scorer. He's had a couple of 20-point games lately."
While Socks has paced the offense inside, Pehl also believes Coppell has the ability to convert from distance.
"If we can shoot at the clip we do in practice, we're going to be just fine," he said. "We've had a couple of games where we've been over 40 percent on 3-pointers and have really excelled. We can shoot it, but sometimes we rely on the outside shot too much."
While the defense has shown a marked improvement, there is still progress to be made there as well.
"We're still working on moving in our defense and getting the isolations we want," Pehl said. "And we're working on moving the ball more in our motion offense. But with the six-team district, we still have a lot of time to get better and we've played a lot of teams so far that are similar to what we will be facing in district."
That new-look District 5-5A includes Denton Ryan, Flower Mound, Hebron, Lewisville and Marcus.
"It's a strong district," Pehl said. "I think the real wildcard is that there are three teams that are in their first seasons with new coaches in us, Marcus and Flower Mound. So there are a lot of teams that are having to adjust to new systems. Teams like Marcus and Denton Ryan both made the state tournament last year but both teams lost a lot of guys. I think you have to look at Hebron as the favorite with the talent they have back and what they have done so far. And Lewisville is young and very talented too. They can really pressure you on defense. I think it's really going to be determined on how it shakes up with those new coaches. But I love my kids and really like the growth that I've seen in the last couple of weeks."
Coppell continues its non-district slate at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Plano West before playing in the Whataburger Tournament Dec. 27-29 at Birdville's Thomas Coliseum. The Cowboys open district Jan. 11 against Marcus.
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