Titans play with the big boys | PostIndependent.com

Titans play with the big boys

Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part series. The next story will cover the Titan girls team.

No upperclassmen appear on their roster.

They have no seniors or juniors to look up to, to learn from.

Going into its first season ever, the Coal Ridge boys basketball team faced many challenges, but one of the biggest was finding a leader. Someone to guide the team not only with his play on the court, but with his attitude as well.

For the Titans, that player is Kevin Screen.

Mike Cox, the head coach of the team, chose Screen as a leader as soon as he joined the team, which began practicing this summer.

“The big thing ” all summer when he first joined us, we didn’t really have a leader,” Cox said. “He knows the game so well ” I think I kind of chose him as the leader because he’s never intimidated. He competes in every game, no matter what the level is. Whether it’s Pick-Up Sticks or basketball, he’s going to compete.”

And compete he has.

Helping lead his team to a 6-6 record, Screen is first on his team in five categories: points per game ” 17.3, points scored ” 173, free throws made ” 46, assists ” 53, and steals ” 58. His 58 steals also rank first in Class 2A in the state, according to Rocky Preps, 12 ahead of the runner-up. He is also fifth in the state in assists, seventh in free throws made and ninth in points per game.

“I kinda knew I had to step it up a notch playing against older kids,” Screen said. “I just rise to the occasion.”

Despite playing well individually, the 5-foot-8-inch freshman point guard said that playing for the Titans and being part of the inaugural squad is the best part for him.

“We have developed a really good friendship and it goes onto the court. We don’t really get mad at each other,” Screen said.

“It’s been fun, it’s a good experience and it’s really fun to get records and be the first ones. We’re just going out there trying to do our best.”

Screen may have emerged as the team’s No. 1 leader, but it doesn’t mean he the only one.

“He (Screen) along with, sophomores Robbie Higgins and Skyler James ” they are leading the team right now. Robbie and Skyler are doing a good job also, but you always look to your point guard, and he’s the one who’s doing it right now for us. He keeps everybody in line pretty good, too, along with the sophomores, and that helps.”

On Jan. 13, Coal Ridge lost to Plateau Valley 74-46, its largest deficit of season. The next day, the Titans, after trailing all game, came back and beat North Park 64-63. They have won two-out-of-three since then, and according to Cox, it is because the team came together. The team called a players-only team meeting after the loss to Plateau Valley, and whatever they talked about caused a turning point in their season.

“Friday (Jan. 13) caused a make-or-break season on Saturday (Jan. 14),” Cox said. “Whether we were going to come out Saturday and play like I knew we could and show what these kids are made of ” I questioned it for a little while. But then they had a team meeting and they came together. Maybe more so than any time ever.”

In another team meeting, this time with Cox, Higgins stepped up and showed his leadership skills.

“After I talked to them Saturday after the game I told them ‘there are some guys on this team that didn’t get to play at all,’ said Cox of his remarks at the meeting. “Then Robbie Higgins stood up and said, ‘I want to thank all my teammates for sitting the bench and cheering us on. I understand you didn’t get any playing time, but I’m behind ya. Just like you are for me.’ That’s really good.”

That’s how the Titans have to be. They have enough going against them, they can’t go against each other. They have to face teams that have been together for years and have to play with more desire if they want to win, according to Cox.

“As far as playing teams that are already established and have been playing together for three or four years ” it’s tough,” Cox said. “We have to play harder, twice as hard, as anybody else and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Screen agrees and doesn’t care that it means going up against older, bigger guys.

“We’ve learned not to be intimidated right now. You can’t be.”

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