It’s still possible the Raiders could match their league record from a year ago. Or they could challenge for a High Desert League title. It’s still too early to tell.
One thing is for certain. This isn’t the same Reed team that has missed the playoffs the past two seasons. Strangely enough, this year’s starting 5 are all returners from last year’s squad that went 4-12 in league.
But the big difference isn’t big at all. The team’s lack of size has forced the Raiders to change their game plan.
“If you ask some of the kids, they’re enjoying this more. They like to play faster. I think most kids do like that,” Reed boys basketball coach Dustin Hall said. “They also understand it’s a necessity. If we want to win games and be successful, we have to push the tempo because we do have a lack of size and can’t play a half-court game.”
One player in particular has benefited from the uptempo style. Senior Dylan McKenzie has been lighting it up from the outside as one of the North’s top 3-point shooters. He also knows that defenses will start to focus on preventing him from getting open looks.
“What coach Hall has been telling me is I’m taking efficient shots, so that’s why the ball is going in,” McKenzie said. “I just try to get open looks. Now since guys are going to be up on me, I’m going to have to attack more and it’s going to create a lot more looks for shooters like Devin (Gray). He’s going to knock those shots down.”
While it’s hard to tell how good this Reed team is — the first three league wins came against teams with a combined two league victories — the Raiders proved they’re legit with their fourth win in a row.
Reed erased a nine-point deficit to start the fourth quarter and rallied for a 10-point victory, making it a 19-point turnaround in the final eight minutes against the Lancers, a team that will be a postseason contender.
The Raiders will get another tough test when they take the court again after a two-week break from game action. They host Douglas Friday at 7 p.m.
The Blue and Gold is eager to face teams expected to challenge for the Northern 4A championship.
“We respect a lot of teams out there and we know there are a lot of good teams,” Hall said. “These guys are just excited to see where they size up and see if all the hard work they’ve been putting in pays off.”
It is somewhat surprising the success Reed has enjoyed so far in the early going. Out of all the teams in the North, the Raiders had the biggest obstacle to overcome.
The RHS cagers didn’t have access to their full complement of players until the fifth game of the season. Three of Reed’s starters — Gray, A.J. Silva and Ty Sheppard — were still on the gridiron during the Raiders’ journey to the state football championship game and weren’t eligible to play in a basketball game until they took on Spanish Springs.
“I think coach Hall pushed us real good to get us back into basketball shape,” Gray said. “He made sure we worked on our individual moves all the time, so we’d be nice and crisp and in mid-season form.”
Hall led the Raiders to the playoffs in his first year on the RHS sidelines as head coach during the 2008-09 campaign. Reed hasn’t been back to the postseason since then.
While anything can happen the remainder of the season, Hall has been enjoying himself a little more this year.
“Every group is different. This group, there’s definitely a chemistry about them. They know when to joke around and they know when it’s time to compete and go to work,” the fourth-year head coach said. “That’s made it a little easier and a little more enjoyable to not always have to light the fire. There’s guys in here who light the fire for each other and push each other. It has been a fun group so far.”