Boys’ basketball: Riverdale Baptist tops DuVal behind Chinanu Onuaku and Taron Oliver

December 21, 2013

The math behind No. 4 Riverdale Baptist’s early-season success may seem relatively simple: 6-8 Taron Oliver plus 6-10 Chinanu Onuaku equals a formidable and tough-to-dodge inside combination.

Finding the best way to utilize the duo? That’s a little tougher. Faced with a persistently pesky defensive effort from the Tigers in a 61-49 win over DuVal at the DMV Tip-Off Classic in Upper Marlboro on Saturday, Coach Lou Wilson had to work to ensure his team capitalized on its size down low.

“When they went man-to-man, we capitalized. Went a little high-low, set [Taron] up high and threw it down low to Chinanu, then we reversed it,” Wilson said. “When they went to the 3-2 zone . . . we stepped one of the big guys away from the box, then when he caught it, the other big guy in the high post dove into the lane. So we tried to make a little adjustment, but then they made an adjustment too, so then we made an adjustment, too.”

For Oliver, all the game-planning boils down to a simpler formula:

“Usually I get the ball up top, throw it to Chinanu down low, and he finishes,” Oliver said. “I don’t mind, I like passing. We work well together.”

Despite changing approaches, the duo sparked the Crusaders with rebounds, points, and a few crowd-raising alley-oops, building a four-point halftime lead into a double-digit difference throughout most of the second half.

“Coach just emphasized crashing the boards and getting the ball more inside,” Oliver said of the Crusaders’ halftime adjustments. “We tried to box out and attack the rim.”

That second-half strategy helped the Crusaders (9-2) overcome a sloppy first half in which they stumbled over turnovers and received just three points — all on free throws — from either big man.

“We took care of the basketball a lot better in the second half,” Wilson said. “We calmed down, made the right passes.”

More often than not, those passes found Onuaku and Oliver, who finished with 18 points between them against the Tigers (1-5). DeQuan Abrom, who often delivered the ball to the post, led the Crusaders with 18 points, and Wilson also lauded point guard Devin Steele for settling the Crusaders down and helping them run their offense more consistently in the second half.

“We outletted the ball better, we were unselfish, and everyone was passing the ball better,” Onuaku said of his team’s strong finish. Oliver and I “work well together because if one of us sees the other open, we’ll pass it. If we dive [into the lane], we give it back to each other.”

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