Pressing onward: Bears use defensive staple to disrupt, defeat Hawks

·3 min read

Jan. 14—After grabbing a steal near midcourt, Oakdale's Alex Hawkins threw down a fast-break dunk with 2 minutes, 38 seconds left in the second quarter.

While the end of that play was a nice highlight for Hawkins, who finished with game-high 28 points, the theft was yet another product of a relentless defensive effort that helped the Bears roll to a 79-40 win over visiting Urbana on Thursday.

Pressing most of the night and continually contesting passes and shots, the Bears strived to disrupt Urbana's offense as much as possible. And they wasted little time doing so, starting with Hawkins' first steal shortly after tipoff.

"We wanted to come out and kind of set the tone a little bit early," Bears coach Brandon Long said. "We came out and we were really intense."

Maybe that's one of the reasons the game had to be stopped with 37.3 seconds left in the first quarter so sweat could be wiped off from the key on Oakdale's side of the court.

"It's like a flood in there," one of the refs yelled.

Oakdale (6-3) used its tight defense to set an uptempo pace, refusing to let the Hawks settle in on offense and using turnovers to set up fast-break scoring opportunities of its own.

"That's our main staple, defense," Hawkins said. "If everyone just locks in and is on the same page, no one can score on us."

That approach led to plenty of steals. Cainan Schmidt finished with four, Hawkins and Evan Austin each had three and Cameron Dorner and Luke Ackiewicz had two apiece.

But those stats didn't tell the full story. The Bears look to get any sort of deflection.

"We try to get our hands on as many basketballs as we can," Long said. "Maybe not necessarily steals, but it'll lead to turnovers or dropped passes or us getting in the lane and getting steals."

More than once, Long could be heard yelling "too easy" after Urbana broke his team's press. But the Bears never seemed to let up, building a 47-22 lead by halftime and maintaining a comfortable lead the rest of the way.

"We let a couple games slip early, and we talked about playing a complete game," Long said. "We still didn't do it tonight, but we took a step in the right direction."

Oakdale is looking to develop into the type of team that mounts the kind of deep postseason run the Bears went on two seasons ago. Two holdovers from that team are Hawkins and fellow senior captain Dorner, who had 20 points on Thursday.

"Those two guys have got to set the tone for us, and I think both of them really showed their senior leadership," Long said. "What you guys see is at the games, but what I see is at practice, and I think that's the biggest piece with those two."

Those players combined for a nice fast-break bucket in the second quarter. Dribbling downcourt with a defender between him and Hawkins, Dorner passed to Hawkins. As the defender came his way, Hawkins passed to Dorner, who hit the layup.

Hawkins and Dorner each had four assists, and Dominic Nichols had two blocks.

Jude Husby led Urbana with 12 points.

Oakdale won the JV game 51-48. Wes Wilson led the Bears with 14 points, and Colin Reno scored 12.

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