South Albany is winning games early in the season even when it’s not at full strength or playing its best.
That was the case again Friday night as the Rebels got up big, held off several Redmond runs and pulled away for a 71-51 home win in a nonconference boys basketball game.
South coach Justin Smith has seen his team search for consistency and struggle with turnovers in its fast-paced style on its way to a 5-1 start.
“We’re starting to get it going,” said senior forward Jake Costello, who had a team-high 24 points. “We played better than we have in the past. We’re starting to get on the right track.”
Jaden Guilford added 22 points for the Rebels, who return eight players off a team that reached last year’s 5A state tournament.
Dylan Taylor had 13 for Redmond (3-3).
South jumped out to a 23-5 lead after one quarter with eight of the first points from Guilford, the Rebels’ point guard.
The Panthers ran off 11 straight points in two-plus minutes before South’s leading scorers got them back on track. Costello and Guilford each scored four straight in an 8-2 run, and teammate Ryan Patrick’s 3-pointer gave the home team a 37-22 lead at the break.
The Rebels scored the first seven points of the third period — five by Costello — to lead by 22, but the visitors didn’t go away. Redmond worked its way to back within nine on a Josh Hair 3-pointer with 6:54 left in the game.
The Rebels answered with a barrage that put the game away.
Guilford hit Eli Nafziger for a layin and soon after South scored eight straight points at the free-throw line, with four from Guilford to go back ahead by 18.
Redmond got no closer than 14 from there.
Smith said he was disappointed that his team pushed out to a big lead but then helped Redmond get back in it by fouling.
“We’re best when we get up and down and run,” he said. “After we stopped that we kind of struggled, especially there early in the second quarter. We’ve just got to get more consistent, and right now we’re not very consistent in the way we play.”
Senior forward Seth Cullison had 10 points and Nafziger and Patrick, both junior guards, had five apiece.
South had 10 turnovers to Redmond’s 16. Smith says that’s a better number for his team than it has been but still needs to improve.
“The thing is we’ve got to be smarter with it,” the coach said. “We’ve got too many good ball handlers. We’re trying to do things that aren’t fundamental and too fancy and it’s turning into bad things.”
The Rebels played without senior post Kyle Miller, who is working his way back from an ankle injury at the end of the football season last month and some illness.
They hope to have him back for next week’s South Albany tournament, which the Rebels open Wednesday night against North Eugene.
“He does a great job under the basket,” Costello said of Miller. “He shoots a high percentage, gets rebounds, he’s a lot of toughness for us. He does a lot of little things, and he can score on anybody in the post.”
South's only loss of the season so far came against Crater, a 78-55 defeat at the Comets' tournament in Central Point.
The Rebels have four more games before opening Mid-Willamette Conference play Jan. 9 hosting Woodburn.