Intensity fuels first win of season for Summit Tigers boys basketball |

Intensity fuels first win of season for Summit Tigers boys basketball

Summit Tigers down Glenwood Springs Demons, 59-44

The Summit Tigers 2021 boys basketball team poses for a team photo earlier this season.
Photo from Mark Kimball

Summit High School boys basketball coach Jordan Buller got a little philosophical after the Tigers’ 59-44 win over Glenwood Springs on Tuesday, Feb. 2. In these unprecedented times for youth sports, one could see why he would.

Buller conceded that he’s an intense guy, adding that “it just comes with being me, I guess.” The coach said he’s found intensity, passion and attention to detail can make a big impact on whatever it is you’re doing in life, the game of basketball included.

“In all reality, I don’t feel like there’s a lot of people that these guys see who live into that intensity a lot of the time,” Buller said. “And I think it’s an important aspect of life — to learn to be intense in certain situations, to fight for what you want in life.”

After Summit’s season-opening 46-38 loss to Fruita Monument last week, Buller was ready Tuesday — from behind his green and white bandanna — to bring the loud passion and attention to detail in coaching the Tigers (1-1) versus the Demons (1-2).

Without a handful of “essential” personnel and livestreamers in the stands, Buller let his vocal energy be known after the first timeout of the game. He wasn’t mincing words.

“I told the guys before the game, ‘It’s weird,’” Buller said. “‘We’re all frustrated we can’t use the locker room. We can’t look at each other without our mask on, that we can’t make a huddle at the timeouts. We all think it’s very stupid. But we are all grateful to play, grateful to have competition, and we’re trying to live into that as much as we can.”

At that first timeout, after Summit jumped out to an early lead, Buller’s coaching didn’t relent. He pointed to Summit senior post player Cam Kalaf as the one guy who was matching his intensity. Yes, the Tigers were up, but he wanted more.

“Cam said it after the game,” Buller said, “‘To be this intense and this involved, you need to be emotionally attached to what we are doing.’ And that’s real, man.”

Summit soon was rallying after every loose ball, executing the “live into it” mantra Buller shared with them. The Tigers played aggressive man-to-man defense with effective boxing-out and rebounding to fuel good, selfless shot opportunities on the other end. Summit moved the basketball to create more paint touches than against Fruita, resulting in a balanced offensive performance led by senior wing Naz Poliuk’s 22 points off six 3-pointers.

Buller and assistant coaches Mark Kimball and Dan Dyer implored the Tigers to get more paint touches against the Demons, and they did exactly that, leading to open shots resulting in 10 points for starter Kobe Cortright, who played many more minutes than against Fruita Monument. Kalaf was also a two-way force on the interior, scoring seven points, while senior junkyard dog Andrew Duxbury amassed block after block and added four points himself. Wing Banta Sylla also provided energy off the bench with his versatile, hustling play, and underclassman Ephraim Overstreet did well setting screens and defensive rebounding.

On the perimeter, Buller was proud of the performances of Hector Diaz (eight points), Tyler Nakos (six points) and Ian Connors. The coach was especially happy with Diaz’ growth over the first game of the season, as Diaz handled defensive pressure much better and attacked the basket more confidently. It came after the coach had Diaz practice against two hounding defenders in a session days ago.

“He’s been working ball-handling drills,” Buller said. “But with this limited situation, he hasn’t been able to practice with a lot of physical play against him. He and Ian embraced that tonight.”

Marcus Popoff was unable to play because of contact tracing.

Summit is next slated to play on the road at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4, at Rifle.

Watch: Facebook Live broadcast of Summit vs. Glenwood Springs basketball

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