After going 1-2 at the Swamp Shootout, South Effingham boys basketball Jason Keeler doesn’t want his team to focus on what happened. Instead, he wants his young Mustangs to think about what lies ahead.
After their opening-round loss to host Ware County, the Mustangs edged Class A Lanier County 50-46 and fell in their finale Saturday to Loris (S.C.).
“I think for the third game in a row, the guys just ran out of steam,” Keeler said of his Mustangs. “We felt it was a game we could have won, had we given three-fourths of the effort we gave Thursday (against Ware). Fatigue just finally set in.”
For many of the Mustangs (5-7), their three games in Waycross were more than they had played in before the season started. It also gave them a chance to spend more time off the court together.
“I think it was an opportunity for these guys to develop the kind of bond and camaraderie that teams have to have in order to be successful,” Keeler said.
The tournament also allowed the first-year coach to take stock of the program and what’s possible down the road. Keeler also is looking at more such tournaments, and further away from home, next year.
“We found out where we stand, and how we have to get there,” he said.
But even with the players’ tanks running on empty and against their level of competition, Keeler though it could have been better. And he also thinks better days are ahead soon for his young team.
“I felt we should have left there with two wins,” he said. “My guys don’t understand their potential yet. We’ve been a mistake here and a mistake there from beating some good teams. Mediocre is no longer acceptable. These guys have got to start believing in themselves. They need to understand what they’re capable of, and they’re capable of a lot. We’ve got to get them to understand how good they could be.”
Tanner Burch was named to the all-tournament second team after averaging five points and seven rebounds a game.
“He’s starting to play well,” Keeler said.
The Mustangs are off until Jan. 4 when they visit Benedictine for their second Region 3-AAA game of the season.