By Craig Handel
(Special to Section2Basketball.com)
FORT MYERS, Fla. - As Joseph Girard III beat himself up for not making more shots, for not going on a run when Glens Falls High still was in the game, for letting his teammates and coaches down, uncle and coach Robert Girard shook his head.
“He’s why we’re here,” Robert Girard said moments after Mississippi’s Petal High pulled away from Glens Falls for a 78-56 victory on Thursday night in the Culligan City of Palms Classic Signature Series.
With the loss, Glens Falls (6-1) will play Brunswick (Ga.) in the consolation game Saturday.
“He takes too much of the blame. He’s got two guys covering him, all game long. That wears on a kid. We know we live or die by him, no doubt about it. Those other kids know their roles and know what he can do.”
In the last two nights, Girard received a big dose of the highs and lows of competing at this level against some of the best high school players in the country.
On Wednesday, the 6-foot-2 guard headed to Syracuse showed why when he won the 3-point shooting contest.
On Thursday, he made just 5-of-23 shots – and 2-of-14 from 3-point range.
“Last night, I got it going in the 3-point contest,” said Girard, who had 22 points or 23 below his average. “I wanted to compete.
“Today, it didn’t work out in my favor. This one is definitely on me.”
Ironically, it was a Girard who kept Glens Falls in the game. Cousin Trenton – who even his dad admits his 5-foot-6 listing on the roster is generous – nailed 7-of-15 field goal attempts, including four 3-pointers, and tallied 19 points. His trey early in the fourth quarter drew his team within 57-50 after Petal had led by as many as 18 points.
“He’s a tough kid who works his butt off,” Robert Girard said. “He wears his emotions on his sleeve. Me and (Joseph) need to control him.”
However, the winning Panthers responded with a mini run, Trenton Girard sprained his ankle, and Petal kept pouring it on.
“We don’t see a team as long as this,” Joseph Girard said. “At home, we’re the most athletic team around. And those lollipop passes, we can maybe get away with those. Not here.”
Robert Girard added, “I thought our bigger kids were getting to the basket. I don’t know if the ball was slippery but it came out. They were long and lanky. I thought Trenton also had a couple of clean looks but their kid got a piece of it.”
The coach thought his team would have its problems but when it rallied from an early deficit to lead 17-16 after the first quarter, he felt his players were just as good.
But Glens Falls went cold and Petal mixed inside and outside. A 12-2 run run gave the Panthers a 32-22 lead. Joseph Girard’s layup at the halftime buzzer still had his team trailing 42-28.
“We missed some shots we normally make,” Robert Girard said. “It’s a great atmosphere, the experience so far has been awesome.
“We appreciated being able to come. We’re happy we’re here.”