COSTA MESA, Calif.- Senior Ennis Whatley (Columbia, Md.) and junior newcomer Preston Wynne (Wellpinit, Wash.) scored 20 points apiece for Vanguard in the Lions' 2012-2013 season opener against Menlo College on Thursday evening. The revamped Pride squad defeated the Oaks 81-59 in The Pit to claim its first victory of the dawning season.
"The focus of game one was to play really hard and to play together," Head Coach
Rhett Soliday said. "We did those two things, so I was happy with that. I thought that our three starting guards, Gorman, Wynne and Kelly, did a great job of keeping our team poised and together offensively. Whatley was super aggressive and attacked the rim when he got the ball, which is what we need him to do. When those four guys were on the floor together, we had some impressive stretches and I thought that we looked pretty good."
Menlo took a four-point lead right out of the gate, but it was short-lived as VU's first game nerves quickly thawed. Wynne broke the ice with a jumper at 18:07 and senior Taylor Kelly (Bakersfield, Calif.), the Lions' lone returning starter, hit a signature 3-pointer to bring the Blue and Gold within one at 6-5. Whatley snatched the ball and the lead shortly after the 16-minute mark with a fast break lay-up. The Pride did not look back, taking a 9-point (32-23) advantage into the locker-room.
Whatley managed 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting, three steals and three rebounds in the first-period.
Junior Chris Gorman (Oceanside, Calif.) stepped up his game after the break, scoring 11 points in the final 20 minutes to tie Wynne as the second half scoring leader. Vanguard never trailed as it gradually built its way to a 22-point victory.
"Moving forward, we need to clean up things fundamentally," Soliday said. "We have been drilling the basics into the guys throughout the preseason, but when you get into a real game, sometimes the adrenaline takes over and the fundamentals can go out the window. We expected a little of that to happen, but now we will go back into the film and show the guys where there were breakdowns and teach them that if we stay with the game plan and focus on the fundamentals, we will create a lot more opportunities for our team."
Wynne put together a first-rate inaugural performance, coming up with 20 points, six rebounds, five assists, a block and a steal, while fellow new arrival Gorman registered a game-high five steals to go with his 13 points. Whatley ended his impressive evening with 20 points, five rebounds, four steals, two assists and a block for VU. Kelly was accurate behind the arc, per usual, knocking down 3-for-5 from 3-point range to finish with 11 points, four assists and a pair of rebounds.
Nine different VU players scored in the contest.
The rowdy Lions' defense forced 28 Menlo turnovers and came up with 14 steals in the win.