FARMINGTON - When St. Paul boys basketball head coach Steve Phelps and senior guard Donavan Symes emerged from the locker room Thursday night, both wore a similar expression on their faces.
It wasn’t one of frustration or disappointment, but one that had a matter-of-fact look to it.
The Falcons had just lost their first game of the Farmington Holiday Tournament by 20 points to Newington, falling to 1-3 on the young season, and while they would rebound on Saturday to beat Avon 45-41, they knew something had to change quickly.
But what proved to be most striking from their breakdown of the lopsided defeat wasn’t the ball rotations or defensive alignments or mistakes that had persisted that night. Instead, they focused on something else: confidence.
“This is an inexperienced team,” Symes said. “This a lot of guys’ first time playing varsity basketball. We just have to be confident knowing you’re going to make the right play, make a pass with confidence. When you shoot the shot, shoot it with confidence. For us, I think it’s the confidence part.”
Symes would know perhaps better than anyone on St. Paul’s roster. He’s a three-year starter and has been through plenty of situations. Some of his teammates are having to learn that, following the departures of All-State players Tyler Arbuckle and Mike Palmieri from the end of last season.
Those two were always reliable. Arbuckle averaged 23.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists. Palmieri finished his senior campaign with 15.8 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists.
As Symes said, this group still has yet to gain that experience. Outside of Symes’ 15 points against the Indians, no other player finished in double figures. Junior Jack Noli was second with nine points.
“We have a number of new guys in different positions and they were challenged by a pretty confident group in Newington and didn’t respond to the challenge,” Phelps said. “We tell the guys every day to finish at practice and finish in games and it’s important to look in the mirror and see what he has to say, see what that conversation is like. I’m confident that our guys will except that challenge and get better from that.”
The ability to pull out a close win Saturday against Avon was a good indication. It also wasn’t lost on either Phelps or Symes that it was still in the first quarter of the season, meaning there is still plenty of time for the team to grow.
“We need to keep fine tuning,” Phelps said. “When we walk in the locker room, who we see is who we have. I’m confident that the guys will get better.”
Symes looked over at his coach and seconded the opinion. But he also noted there has to be some sense of urgency.
“I think it will come, but it has to be now,” the guard said. “We just got to work hard in practice and come back.”
And like that, both walked back into the locker room
“Don’t give up on us just yet,” Phelps said.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org