With former Generals stars Savon Goodman and Daiquan Walker moving onto UNLV and UCF, respectively, 6-foot-6 sophomore forward Ahmad Gilbert will be looked upon to shoulder the load and help carry his team to another Public League championship. On Friday night, Gilbert looked comfortable grasping that role.
The Constitution Generals (2-1) took advantage of an overwhelmed Robeson Huskies (0-3) squad 87-48, led by Gilbert, who contributed a game-high 17 points, seven rebounds, five steals and three blocks.
“We wanted him to go from being known as just a scorer into a guy that can do other things,” Constitution head coach Rob Moore said. “We want him to be able to rebound the ball on the defensive end and push the ball up the court. We don’t want him to always have to look for a guard, he has that freedom, along with everybody on the team, to take the easy shot and, if not, set up the offense. He did a lot of small things and I was pleased with his effort, even though early on his shot wasn’t falling.”
Along with Gilbert, junior guard Floyd Preito added 12 points, junior forward Raheem Liggins put up 10 points and six rebounds and sophomore guard Tymir Watson contributed eight points, five rebounds, four steals and a block.
Robeson was led by Ray Jefferson, who scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds, and L.J. Crenshaw, who contributed 12 points, six rebounds and two steals.
The Generals used several runs where they held the Huskies scoreless, including two 11-0 runs (one to start off the second quarter, the other before the backups got some playing time in the fourth quarter). Their suffocating full-court press forced 20 steals, but gave up a number of easy layups. As the season progresses, Moore wants to see his team bring the same intensity on defense, regardless of the situation.
“When we get up, we don’t play defense as tough as we should when we’re up 15, 20, 30 points,” Moore said. “They have to play with the same level of intensity, whether up 30 or in a tight game in the state championship, they’ve got to build that up and that’s the main thing we’re looking for. Every game I just want to show some progress. We’re not playing for what happens in December and January, we’re playing for what happens in February and March. We need improvement across the board.
“Part of it is getting better at trapping and trapping hard. You’ll force more turnovers, and anytime you play a trapping defense, especially one in full court, you give up easy baskets sometimes. We have to work at, once we get beaten, get back. We’ll only have one or two guys back and everyone else is jogging back. Good teams, they’re going to sprint back and they’re going to try and get the ball from behind and get blocks from behind, and that’s one of the things we really have to work on.”
The starting five did their job for Constitution, but it was the bench, specifically the play of Watson and junior guard Lincoln Kpokuyou, that impressed Moore the most in a blowout win and has him hopeful moving forward in the season.
“Some of the guys came off the bench and gave me some really good minutes,” Moore said. “Tymir Watson came in to the second quarter and played well. He turned the ball over three straight times, but he got three straight offensive rebounds, a steal, so he more than made up for that. One of our best players was Lincoln Kpokuyou, he gave us decent minutes and that’s what we’re looking at. We can go 10 or 11 deep and not really miss a beat. Anthony Satchell comes in, give him some minutes and he gets a couple quick buckets, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these freshmen that we have, by the end of the season, aren’t cracking the rotation.”
Constitution revisits Ben Franklin High School for a game against Boys Latin Charter on December 18th in a rematch of the Public League championship before a big matchup against Math, Civics & Sciences on December 20th.