He’s looking forward to an even better season this year. And if the Falcons’ play at the start of the season is any indication, they just might make that happen. They kicked it off with an 80-58 trouncing of Granada and followed it with a home-opening win last week over a tough College Park team, 73-69.
College Park, which also uses the Falcons team name, came into the game with a 5-1 record and a star player, junior guard/forward MacKenzie Moore, who is averaging 25 points per game. Freedom held Moore to 19 points and overcame a slow start in the first quarter with a team effort.
They were led by scrappy junior Andrew Garner, who repeatedly sacrificed life and limb to take several charges that resulted in turnovers, the biggest of which occurred with 50 seconds left in the game and Freedom up by two points. Garner followed that by making both free throws in a one-and-one situation to put Freedom up by four, which proved the winning margin. Throughout the game he dove for balls, fought for rebounds, snagged steals and caused turnovers. His fighting spirit backfired only once, when he was slapped with a technical after protesting too vigorously on a foul call, which led to four straight free throws by College Park.
“It was a tough game,” said Torres. “We knew they were going to be good; they were already battle-tested. They just won a tournament. (It was like) two Division 1 teams fighting for a playoff spot. They are going to be like a team that’s going to help us prepare for league.”
Freedom trailed early on by seven points, ending the first quarter down 11-16, but went on a 10-2 run in the first two minutes of the second quarter by aggressively driving the ball to the cylinder and mounting a full-court press that resulted in several turnovers. The Falcons were up seven at the half and led by six at the end of the third quarter.
College Park closed within two in the final minute and a half, but Nick Blount closed it out in the final 20 seconds with a steal that he took the length of the floor for a layup.
Torres was happy with the win, but thought his team could have played better. “We’ve got a lot of stuff we’ve got to work on,” he said. “It’s real sloppy right now. It’s the beginning of the year; it was only our second game.”
But he believes the team has a solid foundation on which to build, including good shooting and an effective press defense. “First of all, they are extremely dedicated,” he said. “They work extremely hard. They buy in to what the coaches are talking about. And they are fun to coach because they have great attitudes and just work hard. I think (this season) should be better because of all of the work. These guys have been together for a lot of games. We’ve put in a lot of work in the off-season. So it should be better. And the buy-in is better than last year.”
A key test of how good his team is would depend on how they played against Berkeley, which knocked Freedom out of the first round of the playoffs last year, said the coach. Three days later the Falcons passed the test with flying colors, beating Berkeley 65-57. They then went on to win the championship of the Granada Holiday Invitational Tournament last weekend to start the season 5-0.
Freedom’s next home game is tonight, Friday, Dec. 18 against Hercules. League action starts Jan. 2 at Heritage.