The Wharton Wildcats just improved to 7-0 Wednesday night as they dispatched district foe Bloomingdale 53-41.
Head coach Tommy Tonelli was not exactly pleased.
"We just can't put teams away like we're capable of," Tonelli said. "It (the game) was a microcosm of the type of year it's been so far: We play well in spurts but then we go in the tank."
The Wildcats went on an 8-0 run to start the game, led by 14 at the half and by 14 again at the end of the third quarter. They let Bloomingdale's Bulls back in the game for a few minutes in the fourth quarter but closed the door in the final minutes to preserve a 12-point win and extend their district record to 4-0. They've now beaten everyone in their district except Newsome. But Tonelli is not slapping high fives with anyone.
"I know when we go up against some of the tougher teams on our schedule, it's going to be a wake-up call," Tonelli said.
Still, Tonelli has a 2012-13 squad that is his most experienced group since his 2007 team and that team, according to Tonelli, was probably the best group he's ever had at Wharton. Half of this year's 14-man varsity roster is seniors. Four of the five starters are seniors. The only junior, center Chase Litton, is a three-year Varsity player with loads of experience.
"This group has been together since my sophomore year," said senior point guard CJ McGill said. "We have a chemistry and a friendship that carries over to the court."
It shows. The first basket of the game for the Wildcats against Bloomingdale was a fast break assist from McGill to last year's leading scorer and senior utility player Sir Patrick Reynolds. Reynolds led the team in scoring with 19; McGill was close behind with 13. They make a pretty dangerous combination with McGill's crisp passing and Reynolds always slicing to the basket. Add in Litton, providing picks and chipping in on the glass and on offense, and you have a pretty effective core of players.
"He (Litton) does a lot of little things for us, a lot of the dirty work," Tonelli said.
Tonelli highlighted Litton's commitment, adding that his transition from football — he is the Wildcats quarterback — was instant and complete.
The football team "lost on Friday night and (Litton) was the first one here on Saturday morning for practice," Tonelli said.
Jaken Grier and Virgil Crump are seniors that rotate in. Grier got the start Wednesday night and Crump was serving a team suspension. New addition Drew Vanderbrook, a senior transfer from Freedom High School, provides some big-man relief and, when not relieving Litton, is another big (6-foot, 8-inch tall) player that can shoot and handle the ball.
"(Vanderbrook) can do some things from a skill standpoint that most guys his size can't do," Tonelli said.
Just ask the Bloomingdale players trying to complete an in-bounds pass with him guarding. Tonelli's son Thomas III is even getting minutes as a junior. Coach Tonelli said young Thomas had "better stay ready" as there's no telling when he might be called upon.
The Wildcats are not performing up to their coach's standards but they are performing quite well, relative to their district, which they lead, and they are positioning themselves as one of the top teams in the county. If they improve leaps and bounds over where they are at now, watch out. If they settle in to where they are, they are still looking pretty good.
Up next for the Wildcats is a trip to Newsome High School tonight (Dec. 14) at 6:30 p.m.. Then they close out the calendar year with a trip to Brandon and a home game against Durant.
How do you think Wharton basketball will finish out the year? Tell us in the comments section below.