In Marcellus Holley's career as a Westfield basketball player, he's never experienced a more frustrating start to a basketball season.
With the team at 1-6 and losing their games by slim margins after poor first-quarter play, no one can blame the senior for being disheartened.
"We're not used [to] starting games like this," the senior said. "I haven't seen us start a season like this either."
In recent games, the crisp three-touch passing plays the Bulldogs execute during the first half don't produce points and shots careen of the rim instead of draining through the net. Breakaways and turnovers lead to points in transition for the opposing team and before long Westfield finds itself clawing out of a deficit.
"We just come out slow and flat and get in a hole," head coach Doug Ewell said.
In the second half, the problems from the first half seemingly vanish as the Bulldogs bring themselves within striking distance of their opponent.
"I guess we just need to start acting like we're losing by 10 at the start of the game," Holley said. "It seems like we don't wake up until we get smacked in the mouth. We're never giving the first blow, we're always taking it."
THE BULLDOGS ENDURED another slow-start turned late-finish on Dec. 16 against South Lakes.
After falling behind 24-8 in the first quarter, the Bulldogs rallied behind Zach Elcano's 19-point performance and outscored the Seahawks in the remaining three quarters 60-47.
"We had nothing to lose so we had to leave it all on the court," Holley said. "We needed have some respect in our game [and finish hard]."
With 18.9 seconds left, the Bulldogs came within one point but were not able to wrestle the lead away from South Lakes.
The comeback attempt fell short as the Bulldogs went on to lose 71-68.
"[The team] needs to come out with the same intensity and emotion in the first half as they do in the second half," Ewell said.
WHATEVER THE PROBLEM is, Ewell is looking for answers from his team.
"I've been saying it's inexperience after each loss," he said. "But it's got to come to a point where it's not experience.
Sophomore Elcano, who is starting on the varsity for his first season, recognizes the team's tendency to start slow.
"We need to learn how to start a game off better," Elcano said. "We need to figure out how to play 32 minutes. It's just what we need to do to win."
The problems aren't just limited to a lack of hustle in the first half.
"Finishing around the basket would help out a lot," Elcano said. "Maybe we can get better shot selection or get the ball closer to the rim."
With the slow start still plaguing the team, Ewell is hopeful his team’s strong second-half play will become the norm.
"We're getting close," he said. "It's all about finishing and if we just start better, it will make finishing easier."