SEE BOLD SCORE IN NEXT-TO-LAST GRAPH THAT NEEDS TO BE INPUT ON THURSDAY MORNING.Tuscola’s boys basketball team lost three games in a row heading into last week.
On Jan. 29, the team fell 49-71 to Enka High School; on Feb. 3, they lost to Asheville High in a close 67-79 defeat. On Feb. 5, the Mountaineers fell in a heartbreakingly close game to North Henderson High, 46-47.
Even though the Mountaineer boys came up short in their last three games, Head Coach Nathan Messer continues to be optimistic.
“We always knew four road games in a row was going to be tough. It’s hard to win in this conference on the road,” he said.
Winning on the road is hard enough, but a recent slump of form saw the Mountaineers, who started the season 5-2, fall to .500 on the season.
In the last three losses, the team has averaged nearly seven fewer points per game than before the string of losses.
Messer isn’t one to make excuses and didn’t when talking about his team’s recent losses. But he did point to a potential reason for the woes.
“COVID-19 has changed life for nearly everyone, high school athletes included,” he said. “Of the 11 boys on the varsity team, six of them play a sport that is also in season right now due to COVID, forcing the players to practice multiple sports in a day.”
Messer has started holding practice at 6 a.m. so that the multi-sport athletes can practice football or soccer in the afternoon. On game days, the multi-sport players will go to an hour of football or soccer practice, then head for the bus and play basketball that night.
“We are doing our best to help out our multi-sport athletes,” said Messer. “We are asking them to eat well, get a lot of rest and do the best they can. We tell the guys to go to their football or soccer practice, then once it’s over you have to mentally go back to basketball that night. Even if we aren’t playing, you have to mentally stay in it.”
Sharing practice time is not the only concern upcoming for the Tuscola basketball team.
The boys are scheduled to play two of the top three teams in the conference to end the year.
“Like I’ve been saying all year, we are going to need to be adaptable. We are going to need everyone to contribute. We need our players to step up and not make multiple mistakes in a row,” Messer said.
Even though the team hit a losing streak, Messer believes it is just a couple of mistakes from changing those games around.
“Turnovers, or whatever mistakes, are going to happen in a game. What we can’t do is have them back-to-back-to-back. We have to limit our mistakes and make the other teams beat us,” he said.
The Mountaineers still have an outside chance of making the playoffs. The team will likely need to win the rest of its games and then get some help from one of the four teams above them.
The Mountaineers lost to Erwin on Thursday by a score of 55-43. Results of the Friday game against North Buncombe were not available as of press time.
Follow the Mountaineers’ games via the live stream on Tuscola’s Athletics YouTube page.