By Jordan Lambert
GENESEO – Just two years ago at GCS, Trenton Woods and Dylan Pohl suited up for the Alexander Trojans in a game that they would go on to lose in the final seconds.
On Tuesday night, they made their way back to Geneseo.
This time around, they helped the Trojans to a season-opening 51-46 non-league victory over Geneseo and showcased just how much they, and Alexander Basketball as a whole, have learned in the two years since under first-year head coach Jalen Smith.
In the opening stages of the contest, it very much resembled a game that one would expect between two teams seeing their first action of the season. The first quarter saw both teams enter the bonus, collecting five fouls each, and scoring eight of the first 10 combined points from the free throw line. The early foul trouble caused Pohl to head to the bench early in the first half, which opened the door for Alexander’s Jaden Snyder, who scored a team-high 13 points to go along with nine rebounds.
Geneseo took advantage of Pohl’s absence, slashing through the lane and finding multiple shooters beyond the arc in the second quarter to take a 22-15 halftime lead.
Early in the third, Geneseo’s Jackson Willis found a rhythm.
With Pohl exiting early in the half once again after picking up his fourth foul, Willis was able to exploit the open lanes and scored 13 of his game-high 24 points in the third period alone.
Geneseo took a 30-15 lead minutes into the second half, but the veteran leadership of Trenton Woods and the adaptability of coach Jalen Smith allowed Alexander to gradually chip away at the Devils’ lead.
Alexander went on a 10-0 run to close the gap to five, where they traded baskets with Geneseo until midway through the fourth quarter. With Pohl re-entering the game, Alexander used a combination of physical defense and controlled offensive gameplay to take the lead and cause lots of Geneseo turnovers down the stretch.
With two minutes left, Alexander took a 51-46 lead, a score that would remain stagnant over the final couple of minutes due to the physical defensive presence of Pohl and Snyder, along with the excellent clock management by Trenton and Kingston Woods.
“At the varsity level, the game speeds up, and having those older guys who have been through wars and good games really helps mold those younger guys,” coach Smith said, of the Trojans.
Jadan Snyder had 13 points and nine rebounds for the Trojans while Kingston Woods added 12 points and five rebounds. Trenton Woods finished with 10 points while Pohl pitched in with eight for the Trojans (1-0).
For Geneseo, Willis finished with a game-high 24 points and three rebounds while Kellen O’Brien also had a good game tallying nine points and displaying the aforementioned leadership that the Devils were looking for.
Oren Ray added eight points and three assists, and Luke Davis pitched in with six rebounds.
Geneseo Head Coach Gregg Hepler commented on his team’s progress in adapting to losing lots of players from last year’s team that made it all the way to the Class C1 semifinals, saying; “Our program has that saying, ‘Next man up.’ When the seniors graduate, it’s time for the underclassmen to step up. I do feel like we have great leaders, and I expect them to continue to be great leaders no matter what we face.”
Coach Hepler also offered some final thoughts on Tuesday’s opener.
“Alexander’s a great team and is well coached,” he said. “I thought our defensive game plan was great. I just think offensively this is where the experience comes in, I think we need to gain more experience on that end. Offensively we rushed some things and let their pressure take us out of our offensive game plan. It’s a learning experience and you learn a lot from these types of games.”
Geneseo is back in action Friday night as they welcome fellow LCAA rep Livonia to the Devils Domain.
Photos by Doug McFarland Photography