The bruising 6-foot-6, 275-pound center certainly was a force in the paint that Fruitport couldn’t contend with on Tuesday during the team’s non-conference battle. Smith recorded a double-double with 17 points and 15 rebounds, and the Warriors (2-1 overall) forced the host Trojans into a dreadful shooting performance in WMC’s 44-29 victory.
Fruitport thought it could combat Smith’s inside presence with 245-pound senior Amelio Flores, but the Trojans’ center battled foul trouble all evening as he tried to keep Smith from dominating the paint.
“I know (Flores) was one of their key players and I just tried to bang with him and get him frustrated, and it went pretty well,” Smith said.
Smith became modest when asked if he could back down any center on the Warriors’ schedule this season.
“I wouldn’t say that,” he said, “but I’ll put up a good fight.”
WMC coach Jim Goorman was proud of his sophomore center, but more pleased with his team’s defensive effort.
“I guess that’s what you call winning ugly,” Goorman said, reflecting on his team’s 28 turnovers. “But the very first thing I told the kids in the locker room was our defense was key. Any time you hold any team under 30 points, you’re doing a lot of good things.”
The difference in scoring balance between the Warriors and Trojans was evident from the opening quarter. WMC had five different players score on its first five buckets, while Fruitport only had four players score during the entire contest.
A 3-pointer by WMC’s Austin Sandin put the visitors up double digits at the end of one, 17-7. The Warriors also received a nice boost from junior James Jackson, who had nine points and three assists.
Both teams fought through sloppy play in the second, as Fruitport went nearly six minutes without a field goal, and the only WMC make was a tip-in by senior guard John Waller.
“I’m happy with the looks we did get offensively, we just didn’t convert,” said Fruitport coach Bill Andree, whose squad falls to 2-1. “There were about three of our guys who just missed some puppies. If we’re going into a game and the shots just aren’t falling, I can live with that. But we had good, open looks and today we didn’t hit them.”
Fruitport was able to crawl back into the contest by frustrating the Warriors with different defensive looks, including a full-court trap and 1-2-2 zone.
“It was our highest turnover total in our three games,” Goorman said. “It boils down to a lot of young kids making poor decisions. We’ve gotta get better and keep improving in practice.”
A steal and score by Fruitport senior Mike Reyes closed the Trojans’ gap to 22-16 late in the first half, but they could never creep closer. Reyes was one of a few bright spots for Fruitport, finishing with a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Flores drew his third foul early in the third quarter and Andree said the Trojans had no one else on his roster that could match up with Smith. The Warriors’ big man took advantage, scoring six points in the third, then six more early in the fourth to help WMC pull away with a 40-24 advantage.
“He’s not as tired out there,” Goorman said, comparing Smith to last season. “He’s running the court a lot better. There’s still those little things he does, like putting the ball down low so the defense can knock it away, but we’re hoping we can correct that by the time he’s a senior.
“One thing I love about Bernard is he’s so fundamentally sound on rebounds. He goes up with two hands and he’s so strong.”
Junior guard Tyler Fehler had seven points for the Trojans and Flores grabbed nine rebounds. WMC’s Henry DeKam grabbed six rebounds and Waller pulled down five.
Junior Varsity: WMC’s Jason Normandin made a layup with one second remaining, giving the Warriors a 54-52 win at Fruitport. The winning score was set up by a nice feed from Chaise Schuiteman, who finished with 15 points and five assists. Normandin totaled eight points and Alex Rop had 10 points and eight rebounds. Shawn Knox led Fruitport with 25 points and Travis Grimm tallied 16.
Freshmen: WMC defeated Fruitport, 38-31, thanks to 12 points from Jacob Ray.