Though its offensive game is still developing, the Madison County boys’ basketball team is off to its first 4-0 start in years, thanks to old-fashioned, tough defense.
“For us right now, it’s about our defense,” coach Steve Crouse said.
Madison County shoots for a 5-0 start Friday when it plays Monroe Area on the road.
Crouse said he has an entire stat sheet devoted to defense — rebounds, steals, blocked shots, causing turnovers, tips, deflections, drawing charges — to chart his team’s progression.
“Just really making sure we’re playing the aggressive defense that we need to play,” he said.
The Red Raiders again turned out another solid defensive effort Tuesday, beating Salem 69-50. Madison County has held all its foes below 60 points this year.
Though he said the offense must improve by Christmas, Crouse is trying to focus on what his team can control right now.
“Right now, what’s our advantage? We can play good defense,” Crouse said. “And our defense is getting better.”
Offensively, Madison County is getting points from multiple sources, even if it’s not functioning to its full potential.
The team saw another scorer step to the forefront Tuesday as T.J. McGuire scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to key the Red Raider win.
McGuire, who became the fourth different Red Raider player to register a double-double in as many games, scored 12 points during Madison County’s pivotal second quarter as the Red Raiders increased an 18-14 edge to 38-23 at the end of the first half.
“He just came out and gave us a ton of energy and made some great shots and helped us get a lot of steals,” Crouse said.
Patrick McCrary, who’s averaging 18.75 points a game, added 18 points and nine rebounds to bolster the Red Raider effort.
Bradley Raines also had a big night, scoring 16 points. He has 42 in his last two games.
Madison County had a large enough lead to play all 13 players who dressed out.
“Three out of our four games, we’ve played everybody on our roster,” Crouse said.
Madison County still had 21 turnovers, “which is way too many,” Crouse said, but it did manage 17 assists and is averaging nearly 20 a game this season.
“That’s a big number for us,” Crouse said. “I like it when we’re getting the ball moved around.”
Another number Crouse likes? Twenty-three offensive rebounds against Salem.
“That’s huge for us,” he said.
Crouse stressed that his team must have a good week of practice to prepare for a tough Friday region matchup with Monroe Area, a team that upset Rockdale County last year and returns several players this year.
Madison County then faces Brookwood Saturday, a Class AAAA team that possesses some quality guards, Crouse said. The Red Raiders then return to region play Tuesday against Heritage, which graduated a lot of its players from last year but maintains talent in the backcourt and size inside.
“The next three games are going to be really tough — two region games and one non-region game against a really good team out of Class AAAAA,” Crouse said. “So we’ve got a lot of work to do over the next week.”
•Madison Co. 50, Dacula 43 (Nov. 24): Behind 26 points from Bradley Raines, the Red Raiders edged Dacula 50-43 last Tuesday (Nov. 24) in Danielsville to move to 3-0.
Madison County led from start to finish to finish its tip-off tournament at 2-0.
Madison County did so despite having Patrick McCrary and Stan Maxwell in foul trouble for large parts of the game.
“We had a host of players in foul trouble so we relied a lot on our bench that night, and they came in and provided quality minutes,” Crouse said.
Raines, who scored 11 points in the fourth quarter, hit a pair of free throws with 50 seconds left to give the Red Raiders an insurmountable 48-37 lead as Madison County knocked off the Class AAAA Falcons.
McCrary paced Madison County early, scoring seven of the Red Raiders’ 11 first-quarter points. He finished with 11.
Madison County led by as many as 11 points in the second quarter, but Dacula cut the lead to 24-20 at the half and tightened the margin to 29-28 after three quarters.
But Raines opened the fourth quarter by scoring off a put-back and drawing a foul. Raines then sank the free throw, completing a three-point play that sparked a 19-9 fourth quarter run to put Dacula away.
Raines went 12-of-15 from the free throw line on the night, converting his final seven attempts.
“That was a big win for us,” Crouse said. “Dacula has a really good basketball team.”
MCHS 69, Salem 50 Scorers: McGuire 20, P. McCrary 18, Raines 16, Maxwell 6, Burton 4, Cooper 2, T. McCrary 2, Robinson 1