Offensive change leads Greenville to 4-0 start

By Bruce Bentley • Last Updated 10:17 am on Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Greenville junior Ethan Morris drives to the basket during a home game against Belding. The Yellow Jackets travel to Forest Hills Central for a makeup game tonight.

GREENVILLE — The Greenville Yellow Jackets boys basketball team started the season in December with an uncertain outlook for the year.

Outside of knowing his team would work hard every night, Greenville coach Mark Haist didn’t know how a drastic change in offensive/defensive philosophy would translate into wins and losses.

Well, so far, so good.

Through four games, the Yellow Jackets are a perfect 4-0. Throw in the fact the Yellow Jackets are averaging 87 points per game and winning by an average of 25 points per game and this team has created a buzz in the area with their play.

“I’m very pleased with the boys. Obviously, we tried something a little bit outside the box and they have bought into it,” Haist said. “I’m very happy with the boys effort and attitude so far. We still have the toughest part of our schedule coming, but so far I couldn’t have asked for anything more out of the boys.”

Offensively, the Yellow Jackets push the ball and attack more than any Greenville team in recent memory. With a constant barrage of three-point shooting and an up-and-down pace, the Yellow Jackets use every player on the roster and substitute like a hockey team (five in and five out).

Haist admits to a little trepidation with the style change.

“There was a little bit of worry. Not just with the kids, but even with the families, but they all seem to be supportive and see the big picture,” Haist said.

The reason for a change was simple.

The Yellow Jackets will face some pretty good teams this season, especially in the O-K Bronze (both Northview and Cedar Springs have started the season unblemished). Haist didn’t feel a set five to seven man rotation would stack up well with other teams.

Greenville senior Parker Syrjala goes up for a contested shot against Muskegon Reeths-Puffer this season.

“We didn’t think we matched up with teams with our starting five,” Haist said. “But if we could go 10 deep that is where we could take advantage of other teams. With our depth.”

With this style, the Yellow Jackets have developed a nice chemistry and excitement that translates on the court.

“One thing I have noticed is we have every kid paying attention during the game,” Haist said. “Usually, you have a couple of kids at the end of the bench that are upset and not paying attention. We have every kid involved, not only in games, but in practice. Every kid gets reps and practices. Practice is even more enjoyable.”

As the season toughens up, Haist said the Yellow Jackets need to do a few things on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

“One thing that will help is shooting the ball well. That’s kind of an obvious comment,” Haist said. “But when you shoot as many three-pointers as we are, a good shooting night can sway things away from the other team having an advantage.

“Defensively, we need to make sure we are all on the same page. I don’t question how hard our kids are working, but we are only four games into this system. We keep hearing from teams that have run this style that things start to click. We are still waiting for that to happen on defense,” he added.

On Friday at Sparta, the Yellow Jackets set a school record for most points in a half with 64. The previous record, 58, was set twice in 1988 and 1993. Both times against Fruitport.

The school record for most points in a game is 104 set in 1973 (Sparta) and 1981 (Big Rapids). Greenville has twice eclipsed the 90-point mark with 93 at home against Muskegon Reeths-Puffer and 92 at Sparta on Friday.

With the wide-open offense, the Yellow Jackets have had different leading scorers in all four games.

“I think Parker (Syrjala) has been excellent at attacking. That’s what we need our point guards to do,” Haist said. “Ian (Cooper) has played very well, but really we have had different leading scorers every night. That’s one of the advantages of this system.”

Greenville will make up Tuesday’s canceled game at Forest Hills Central today. The Rangers are 4-1, with their only loss coming against undefeated Northview (57-53).

The Yellow Jackets will begin conference play on Friday at home against Cedar Springs (4-0). The Greenville girls team (5-0) will play first at 6 p.m. with the boys game following.

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