Caden Robinson

SPARK OFF THE BENCH — Sophomore wing Caden Robinson, pictured here during the Tuscola scrimmage, put up a game-high 20 points at Owen, despite not starting.

After putting on a show for the final three quarters of its scrimmage against Tuscola, the Pisgah boys basketball team has proven it’s ready to compete in the regular season with a 76-34 win at Owen.

The win in the season-opener was an important step for a Bears team with a lot of experience that features a number of seniors likely looking to make a mark in their final year. However, head coach Jonathan Whitson was quick to point out that things were a bit rocky until some halftime adjustments were made.

“There’s still a long way to go to where we want to be,” he said. “We gave up way too many second-chance points. I know that, of the first eight points they had, four of them were second-chance. We hang our hat on the defensive end, so we talked a lot at halftime that before their first shot, we were good, but we weren’t finishing it by securing the defensive rebound. I felt like we did better in the second half, though.”

When asked if the relatively small size of his starting five makes the team vulnerable on the boards, Whitson firmly denied that was the case.

“I feel like rebounding is a lot of heart and making sure you’re in the right position to get the ball,” he said. “There were a lot of times we turned and stared at the ball and they outworked us in the first half.”

But Whitson also expressed confidence in his team’s ability to continue improving as long as his players are tenacious and physical on defense.

“We play man-to-man, and we play better the more up-tempo our defense is,” he said.

Leading all scorers was Bears sophomore, 6-foot-4 wing Caden Robinson, who put up 20 points off the bench.

“He’s good all-around,” Whitson said. “I have confidence in him shooting it and driving and finishing around the basket. We’ve got to develop him finishing better around the paint, but that’s going from JV as freshman to varsity as sophomore, and time will fix that.”

Whitson said he intends to keep his same starters, meaning Robinson will continue to come in off the bench.

“Rotation-wise, I feel pretty confident right now,” he said. “He fits in really well. He plays hard and he does all the little things. For him to come off the bench and be that spark is a huge momentum booster for us.”

Wednesday, The Bears will play at Smoky Mountain to open conference play.

“It’s an important game because it’s the next game on the schedule,” he said. “And it’s also the first conference game, and it’s at smoky, so you can always expect a good game there.”

Whitson conveyed respect for Smoky Mountain head coach Adam Phillips.

“He does a good job with his players,” he said. “They play hard and physical, and we know we have to be ready for that and to not shy away from the contact.”

Tipoff at Smoky Mountain is scheduled for 8 p.m.

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