Jason Keeler’s tenure as South Effingham boys basketball coach got off to a great start Tuesday night.
The Mustangs shut down the Claxton Tigers and rolled to a 50-32 win at The Corral in the season opener.
“If nothing else, it validates what I’ve been telling these guys for three weeks, that no one has worked harder than you guys,” Keeler said.
Zach Anderson had 17 points, Eddie Harris had 12 and Justin Hatten had 10 to lead the Mustangs.
But for South Effingham to be successful this season, it’ll be defense that will carry them, Keeler said.
“We’ve got to keep games under 50,” he said. “If we’re giving up more than 50 points a game, we might be struggling.”
Keeler was glad to see his still inexperienced team limit the number of turnovers, nine in each half.
“We did a good job controlling the ball,” he said. “We’re still young and not just in terms of class but also in facets of basketball.”
That lack of basketball knowledge helped Claxton cut into the lead before the Mustangs pulled away.
“We didn’t play well with a lead and that’s borne out of experience,” Keeler said. “Because there’s so little varsity experience, it’s a learn as you go thing. They have to learn as they play, and they’re going to.”
But his team may have displayed a little more savvy than even he anticipated after he congratulated them on their win.
“I was really impressed with the way they kept in perspective,” he said, remarking that a round of applause broke out in the locker room. “Then Alex Reid said, ‘This one is over. We’ve got to get ready for the next one.’ That coming from a freshman is a good sign.”
The team also drew remarks on game day from around the school as they strode the halls in shirts and ties.
“You know that Office Depot commercial where they say ‘they’re taking care of business?’” Keeler asked. “I know it sounds corny and cliché, but it isn’t just fun, it’s work, not that you can’t have fun at work. But we’ve got business to take care of.”
They had plenty of things to work on Wednesday morning following the win, such as setting screens and “some things we didn’t do well,” Keeler said.
Yet he’s optimistic about what lies ahead, regardless of the team’s 1-0 record.
“I think the future is bright for us, with as many young players as we have,” he said.