The Rim Country Maverick eighth-grade boys basketball team rebounded from a tough 48-42 loss at Holbrook to whip the Joseph City Wildcats 45-28.
Prior to the Feb. 2 White Mountain League showdown against JC in RCMS gym, coach Grant Coley addressed the team's poor defensive effort in the loss to the Roadrunners, saying the Mavs "played very soft."
His comments apparently motivated the young players to perform better against the Cats.
"Right from the opening tip, we played in-your-face defense, resulting in 19 steals," he said.
Ever Figueroa, Josh Sloan and Nick Gonzalez led the bandit-like defense with four steals each.
Coley said the Mavericks built a seven-point lead in the first quarter despite not having the services of starting point guard Brandon Alexander, who was recovering from the flu.
"By halftime we increased the lead to 15, and by 22 going into the final quarter," Coley said
Offensively, the Mavs were led by Cody Waterman who scored 12 points. Figueroa finished with 11 and Sloan had 10. Waterman led the battle on the boards, corralling seven rebounds.
Figueroa assumed the role of floor general, dishing out five assists
Following the win, Coley both lauded and challenged his team.
"Even though half the team was sick, they played awesome defense. We just need to work hard and prepare for the (White Mountain League) tournament at the end of the year," he said.
In the Jan. 31 loss to Holbrook, the Mavericks fell behind 31-20 at halftime, mostly because the hot-shooting Roadrunners were cashing in from beyond the 19-foot-9-inch arc.
"They made six three-pointers," Coley said.
In the fourth stanza, after trailing by as many as 15 points, the Mavericks rallied before dropping the hard-fought six-point decision.
"We just ran out of time," Coley said. "One of the reasons for the outstanding comeback was the rebounding of Nick (Gonzalez) who snagged eight in the final quarter."
Coley also praised the efforts of Waterman who finished with 20 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots.
But even with his showing, the lack of "D" slowed the Mav cause.
"We didn't play tough defense in the first half, and it's very tough to come back against a team with the firepower of the Roadrunners when you trail by double figures late in the game," Coley said.
In other White Mountain League action this season, the Mavericks thumped the Round Valley Elks 41-34 Jan. 24 in Eagar-Springerville. Figueroa finished with nine points, Waterman blocked 12 shots and had 11 rebounds.
Hoop play continues Feb. 14 in the RCMS gym against the Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets. Game time is 4 p.m.