• Chris Collier | Staff Writer

Cats heat up in 2019

The GC men’s basketball team boasts a 6-1 record in the month of January as it storms into a flurry of Peach Belt Conference matchups that will surely test its new-and-improved defense.

In a season characterized by ups and downs, head coach Mark Gainous credits the team’s red-hot January to its strong defensive play.

“We’ve gone to our 1-1-3 defense,” Gainous said. “We call it our Vegas defense after Jerry Tarkanian at UNLV. When we played Aiken, they split our traps, and we were vulnerable on the glass. Against Pembroke, we did not trap and just kept our big guys inside, and it helped our rebounding. If we trapped Pembroke, we would’ve made ourselves too vulnerable on the offensive glass.”

With a record of 5-5, the Bobcats entered winter break in search of answers. Gainous used the down time to get the team back to basics.

“We were 5-5, and we had an eight-day break,” Gainous said. “I really did a lot of stat analysis, trying to look and see why we’re coming up short,” Gainous said.. “We did play a tough schedule; we played Aiken twice, and they beat us by two points. But losing by two points isn’t good enough. We looked at all the numbers and said, ‘You know what, we just have to play better defense.’”

The team looks to dictate and control the tempo in the second half of the season, a period full of crucial PBC matchups.

“Defense and rebounding are the top priority,” Gainous said. “We want to control the pace of play with great defense.”

Noting the unpredictability of a long, grueling season, Gainous said he takes each game as it comes, emphasizing goals on a game-per-game basis.

“Every year, you have different obstacles that you have to overcome,” Gainous said. “As the coach, I tell them all the time that I don’t set goals for the team; I set game goals. We have certain game goals that we want to reach. They have their own team goals as far as what we want to get accomplished.”

Senior forward Isaac Thomas humbly praised his teammates when asked about his team-high field goal percentage.

“I think it’s just the guys around me, having a point guard that can make the right passes and having two guards that can make shots,” said Thomas said.

Senior guard Desmond Mitchell La-Flam leads the team in assists at 5.1 per game. When asked about his passing ability, he also emphasized the importance of team play.

“I’ve always been a team player,” La-Flam said. “I love getting my teammates involved. It’s probably one of the biggest strengths of my game. It allows everyone to get easy shots and a rhythm.”

Gainous said that Thomas and La-Flam do more than just fill the stat sheet.

“First off, they’ve brought toughness,” Gainous said. “You don’t beat Pembroke without toughness. They’ve brought leadership. Isaac’s been with us for four years, and Desmond’s been with us for three.”

When asked about the team’s victory against UNC Pembroke, the reigning Peach Belt Conference champions, La-Flam couldn’t help but crack a smile.

“You never want to get too high or too low after a win or a loss, but one of those always feels good,” La-Flam said.

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