Moline presented head coach Sean Taylor with a plaque and a celebratory team picture before the start of Tuesday’s game at Wharton Field House commemorating his 500th career win Saturday at the Genesis Shootout.
Then the Maroons went out and showed why their coach has been so successful.
The young Maroons played with poise and smarts en route to an impressive 54-48 victory over Galesburg, giving Taylor his first Western Big Six win as Moline's coach.
And it was clear he was pretty proud of his team and its development after the game.
“I think we’re starting to execute, starting to understand the strengths of our team,” Taylor said. “I just think Nate (Hurt) and Brody (Harding) are a large part of that because I think they’re getting the ball to the right people. They’re really doing a great job of making us execute.”
Moline got 14 points from point guard Hurt and 14 more from sophomore forward Deonte Billups and nine more from forward Drew Wiemers.
“I think Nate’s playing better and better,” Taylor said. “He’s starting to control the game for us. He’s starting to think like a point guard. I think he’s coming into his own.
“And I know he’s a senior, but he didn’t play a lot last year. So he needed to get some seasoning and experience. And he’s really starting to understand what we need from him.”
Time after time Moline guards looked like they were looking for an opening to shoot only to shoot a pass to a forward like Drew Wiemers or Nolan Griffin for easy buckets underneath. The best may have been a pass from sophomore Harding at the elbow that found Wiemers with one second left underneath and he banked it in for a 39-33 Moline lead at the end of three.
While Galesburg (6-4, 1-2) was called for two technicals, one on coach Mike Reynolds, the Maroons (7-4, 1-2 Big Six) simply took advantage of them, breaking from a 5-5 tie for a 10-5 lead en route to a 17-15 first-quarter advantage. They extended it just a bit the next quarter to lead 28-23 at half.
“That’s what you see in practice,” Taylor said of his team's poise and smarts. “These guys work in practice. That’s why they’re fun on game night. We’ve had just great practices because they want to get better both individually and collectively.”
Billups and Hurt agree with their coach, including that the Maroons are coming around.
“We practice hard,” Billups said. “We want to get our chemistry right.
“We are starting to buy in to buy in to whatever he says and just starting to play collectively,” added Hurt. “It was a huge win. I think last year they were like 8-2 and we were like 2-8. I feel like this year we will get a lot more wins.”
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Hurt made 10 of 13 at the free-throw line, including the last four that made sure it would not get too exciting. The Streaks needed a bucket at the buzzer to cut it to a six-point margin.
After once being 5-0, Galesburg is a team that continues to search for offensive firepower. It did not help in this one that TJ Pendleton had three first-half fouls before eventually fouling out in the fourth quarter, finishing with just eight points.
Only guard Mark Harden reached double figures with 10.
Streaks coach Mike Reynolds was pleased with this compared to Saturday when the Streaks were held to 27 points by Pleasant Valley.
“The energy was good,” he said. “Our execution has to get better. We played Silver Streak basketball for the most part. We defended. We rebounded. We dove on the floor.
“We just didn’t have it offensively. We could never get the big shot to make them feel uncomfortable. Give credit to Moline. They executed better than we did.”