SHERIDAN — At 6-1, even after suffering their first defeat of the season Saturday night, Generals head coach Steve Smiley is encouraged by his squad’s early progress.
Friday night the Generals defeated Colorado Kings — a team that Smiley noted had played good competition so far and was a not an easy game — behind balanced scoring from their experienced core, 80-59.
On Saturday, the Generals hosted Northeastern Junior College out of Sterling, Colo., a team that is similar to Sheridan in that they are big and carry a deep bench, and a poor shooting night compounded by 14 missed free throws ended in an 89-86 loss.
“Part of it is obviously frustrating because it was a good opportunity to continue this early streak,” Smiley said. “Anytime you get an opportunity to beat a good team and you don’t get that done, it’s too bad.
“That being said, I liked our effort,” he added. “They’re very similar to us — big, deep, strong — we out-rebounded them and the turnover story was similar, but the thing that hurt us was field goal percentage and free throw percentage.”
Sheridan shot 12/31 from the field to Northeastern’s 19/31, and 29/43 from the charity stripe. Northeastern missed just two free throws (15/17). The Generals trailed at halftime, 49-42, and by 10 points with four minutes left in the contest but fought back at the end.
“We could have throw in the towel, but our guys didn’t do that,” Smiley said. “If we can learn the lessons from a game like this, it will really help us down the road.”
Jeff Amazan led the Generals in scoring both nights, with 14 and seven boards Friday and then 20 points Saturday. Iakeem Alston had 18 points, eight rebounds and nine assists Saturday after a 10-point, four-assist night Friday.
Also Friday, Fred Dure had 10 points and eight rebounds, Josh Adeyeye had eight points and nine boards, Kaileb Rodriguez scored nine points while grabbing five rebounds.
Despite the loss Saturday, Smiley said they set up their non-conference schedule as perhaps even more challenging than their league set of games — they’ll begin Region IX North play Dec. 4 on the road at Western Wyoming.
After a game at Rocky Tuesday night in Billings, they play at the College of Southern Idaho Tournament this weekend in Idaho Falls. Friday the Generals play Treasure Valley, a good team out of the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges conference, and then No. 13-ranked CSI Saturday.
“We built a tough schedule,” Smiley said. “I’d like to think our preseason is going to be more difficult than our conference schedule, we’ve got six games over the next two weeks.”
The Generals return home during the week of Thanksgiving for games against Colorado Northwestern and then Laramie County Community College to begin the annual Lions Club Tournament.
With their depth, Sheridan is built for a good season, and these early lessons will hopefully pay dividends in March.
“We’re not going to inflate our schedule, we’re going to play tough teams and learn these lessons,” Smiley said.
“There’s a very high ceiling for this team.”