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Team finds winning track

Sat., Jan. 8, 2011

With Miller’s help, the Titans enter Friday’s game at Lewis and Clark with a 5-2 record

The numbers add up fast for basketball players like Jared Miller.

The University High junior guard is the Titans’ long-range shooter. The team needs him to connect from behind the three-point line on any given night. They need him to be a threat that forces defenses to respect both the team’s inside and outside games.

Miller draining the occasional bonus jumper keeps defenses honest, which in turn makes it easier to make two-point shots inside. It’s simple basketball math.

“We need defenses to come out and guard me outside,” Miller explained. “If I’m making my shots, they have to respect that and it opens things up for my teammates inside. It gives guys like (forwards) Zech Martin and Joe Dahl room to work.”

So far, the equation is working out. The Titans go into Friday’s game at Lewis and Clark with a 5-2 record in the Greater Spokane League, putting the team solidly in third place halfway through the league season.

“We’re showing good progress so far,” coach Garrick Phillips said. “We’re not there yet and we still have things to work on.”

The Titans had a hiccup against Gonzaga Prep, along with Ferris, one of the two teams ahead of U-Hi in the GSL standings. The team committed a season-high 27 turnovers in a 63-50 loss.

“That was frustrating because turnovers hadn’t been a problem for us before that game,” Phillips said. “I’m not sure I can put my finger on what the problem was, but I think I have to give a little credit to the way Gonzaga Prep played us.”

“All I know is I’m excited to get another shot at them later on,” Miller said. “I know we’re a better team than we showed in that game and I think we’ll give them a better game next time.”

Ferris is the only undefeated GSL team going into Friday’s game against North Central. Gonzaga Prep is a game back of the Saxons and a game ahead of U-Hi. Central Valley is fourth, two games behind the Titans.

Phillips, in his fifth season at University, likes the progress he’s seen over his tenure.

“I think that, before we got here, this program didn’t have a lot of expectations of winning a lot of basketball games in this league. We’ve had to work on that and I think we’ve made good progress.

“It’s one of those things that require a shift in thinking. I’ve had teams before where, all of a sudden, they just realize that they can win games.”

For Miller, it’s a matter of confidence.

“The best thing for me is to go out and hit my first couple of shots,” he said. “When you do that, your confidence goes sky high and you just know that you can make any shot you put up.”

He’s had a few nights like that.

Take the Titans’ showdown with Rogers last month. Both teams entered the game unbeaten in league and the Titans came away with a 75-73 victory behind a 25-point night from Miller, who was 8-for-8 from the free-throw line.

“That was a great night – I had a lot of confidence going,” he said. “I knew that, as long as I got my setup right, the ball was going in.”

“Jared has done a nice job with his game this year,” Phillips said. “He played the whole year with our junior varsity last year. He’s done a nice job integrating his game with the varsity’s – he put in the hard work to make himself better.”

That, Miller said, has been key.

“I played with some of my teammates on JV last year,” he said. “But there are a few guys that I didn’t get a chance to play with until we did spring ball together.

“I think what makes us work is the fact that we’re all a bunch of cut-ups who like to hang out together when we’re not playing. We all like each other and enjoy laughing and having fun together.”

The fun includes winning basketball games.

“I think that’s very important for us, especially coming off a loss to Gonzaga Prep,” Miller said. “I think we really need to get back on the winning track right away. We need to start putting together some wins so that when we come back around to play Ferris and Gonzaga Prep, we’ll have lots of confidence in ourselves and our game.”

With the Christmas break behind them, Miller said he’s looking forward to usual routine.

“I didn’t get the chance to shoot the way I normally like to shoot over the holidays,” he said. “Now that we’re back in school, I can get back to shooting during the day and outside of practice.

“I have a friend that practices with me and we go into the gym a couple times a day to work on my shot. I don’t have a set number of shots I like to take, but it does help me when I can get in extra work. I think it will make a difference in my game down the stretch.”

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