Glen Este masks height deficiency with toughness

Glen Este’s Tyler Flanigan, above, shields off a defender in the Trojans’ Jan. 16 game against Clermont Northeastern. Flanigan, a junior, averages 7.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.
By Chris Chaney
Sun staff

Every team has weaknesses that need to be masked or compensated for throughout a season, and for the Glen Este Trojans that fact has been no less true.

Coming into the 2012-13 season, Coach Dave Caldwell and the Trojans could see what deficiency they lacked simply by taking a look around at the players that they would be playing alongside. Specifically, nearly everyone on the team could see eye-to-eye; they didn’t have anyone on their roster over 6-foot-3 inches tall.

“With our biggest guys being 6’3”, it seems like every other team has a couple 6’8” guys,” Caldwell said of their early season opponents. “We worked hard over Christmas break and got better. Playing a couple of teams a little more like us, we have had some better results.”

During the rocky start to the season, the Trojans faced some of the toughest teams in the area, most of whom had big men in the middle that caused matchup problems for the smaller Glen Este squad.

“A big part of (our early season struggles) has been our schedule. We started the season with some unbelievable opponents,” Caldwell said. “Between playing Walnut Hills twice, Turpin twice, St. (Xavier), Newport Catholic, it just seemed like we played a bunch of hammers.

“At this point, all of the teams that have beaten us, the worse team has a .500 record. It’s not like we’re losing to bad teams.”

Having to deal with that difficult early-season schedule, the Trojans were only able to pick off one win in their first 12 games, a 53-48 win over Mount Healthy in the season-opener.

Despite their lack of size, the Trojans played admirably over that 11-game losing streak, rarely getting blown out. Caldwell and his team had to find a way to turn their lack of size inside into an advantage.

“At Glen Este, we’ve traditionally had a very strong football program and we have a lot of football players (on the basketball team) that are just tough kids,” Caldwell said of the Trojans’ defensive strategy. “We’re going out and playing man-to-man and sticking our 6’1” and 6’2” kids on 6’8”, 6’9”, 6’10” kids and their going out there and busting their butts, doing a great job. Our half-court defense is really a strength of ours.”

Glen Este has had their troubles taking care of the ball on offense, which in turn nullifies that strength when teams are able to get out in transition and score easy baskets. Caldwell pointed out that the better the team takes care of the ball, the closer their games are.

On the offensive end of the court, the Trojans are trying to flip their size deficiency on its head to force their opponents’ big men to step out and play perimeter defense.

“We’re trying to take advantage of all of our guys,” Caldwell said. “Everyone we have can shoot and dribble and get to the hole. We’re pretty much playing a five-out offense to take advantage of the guys we have that can shoot.”

That offense is buoyed by senior Austin Rieck, a 6-foot-3 wingman, who averages 16.1 points per game, 4.3 rebounds and two assists.

“He’s our leading scorer,” Caldwell said. “He’s on pace to finish in the top-5 in career scoring for Glen Este. He’s just doing a great job, especially being the target of other teams, sometimes having to work hard for his shot.”

Rieck can flat fill it up for the Trojans as he showed in back-to-back games against Turpin and Little Miami as he went for 33 and 30 points, respectively.

“Another senior that has really stepped up for us is Alex Gordon,” Caldwell said. “He’s scored in double digits two of the last three games and he’s doing some things well for us.

“We have a lot of guys that are doing things for us that if we didn’t have, we would be kind of up a creek.”

Beginning with that Turpin game on Jan. 11, a two-point loss, it seems as if the Trojans have turned a corner, winning three of their next four games.

Caldwell has seen the improvement and hard work translate to some wins over quality opponents and hopes that they can parlay that success into more wins coming down the stretch.

“(The last five games) are all games that if we play well, we have an opportunity to win,” Caldwell said. “At the same time, they’re all very good teams. We just need to go out and worry about us.”