The Quigley Catholic basketball team plays a cerebral game ... the players work together to deny their opponents wins.
In Quigley's Dec. 21 win against Lincoln Park, Jay Fyda shadowed the Leopards' key perimeter shooter, Maverick Rowan. Never far from the ball, Fyda was determined to stop his man. Throughout the game, he thwarted clutch passes and breakaways.
"Jay Fyda was in the middle of the paint," coach Joe Kirschner said. "His responsibility was help side."
In other words, if any of Fyda's teammates were beaten by a driving opponent, Fyda was there to help out.
"If somebody got beat off the dribble, Jay was there stopping dribble penetration," said Kirschner. "He executed his job duty that night very well."
Lincoln Park was held to four points in the third quarter and Quigley won the game, 62-54, even though the team had been down at the half.
But help-side defenses don't consist of one guy. Even as Fyda used his speed to catch players who thought they'd found a hole, the other Spartans rotated.
"Defensive rotation," Kirschner emphasized. "It's part of our defensive philosophy."
Quigley (7-5, 1-1) is ready even when its rivals think they've got the Spartans beat. An offensive player will dribble past one Spartan only to encounter another before shooting. This is because the Quigley defenders have already rotated. As the first charge gets blocked by a help-side defender, the other Spartans slide to prevent further passes and drives.
Quigley's defensive playbook goes far past help-side strategies.
"We like to mix it up with different defenses," Kirschner said. "We don't like to stay in one defense for a long time."
In a man-to-man situation, junior Anthony Herman is instrumental.
"When we play our man-to-man, we put him on one of the opponent's offensive players," Kirschner said. "He's done a great job defending against them -- we give him 'one-on-one' responsibility."
Kirschner noted that Herman had really elevated his defensive abilities in the Spartans' win against Lincoln Park.
"He brought a whole other intensity level on the defensive end," Kirschner said. "It was a big key."
With a team defense in place, scoring comes naturally to Quigley. Fyda scored 24 points in that Dec. 21 game, and Nate Lieb added 20.
Kirschner attributed Fyda's and Lieb's scoring abilities this season to an emphasis on the inside game. Both players have histories of being good perimeter shooters, but worked in the offseason to improve their inside play.
"Jay and Nate have been improving their abilities to get to the lane and get to the basket," said Kirschner. "Now they're getting some scoring off penetration."
Kirschner explained that much of the offensive improvement comes from a series of layup drills called "intensity layups."
"It's when they're just attacking the basket with layups and going hard," Kirschner said. "This is one of those drills that improves players' abilities to get by defenders and get to the basket and finish."
The Quigley team practices for two hours most days and cuts practice by only 15 minutes on days before games.
"Everything we do is game speed," added Kirschner.
The speed is a testament to the conditioning-coaching of assistant Joel Durham, who runs a conditioning program that begins in October.
The hard work culminates in a sense of pride and confidence -- factors that lead to success on the court.
"Every night, we feel capable of being on top," Kirschner said. "We know what we're capable of. We just have to go out and play hard and execute our stuff."