NEW HAVEN – Al Gooden wants to make one thing very plain.
“There is nothing wrong with us,” the New Haven coach says. “Who is saying we are down? I think we are alright.”
At 7-4, New Haven may not have one of the area's most impressive records. But do not mistake that as the Bulldogs underperforming this season. In fact, they may be just hitting their stride.
New Haven looked stout for much of its 75-60 victory over visiting Snider, the third win in a row for Gooden's team, matching a season high.
Lost in the hot starts of conference foes Homestead and Columbia City has been the Bulldogs. Part of that has been due to the schedule, with New Haven having a sparse schedule at times in the first few months of the season.
Having a week or more in between some games has prevented the Bulldogs from getting into any sort of a rhythm.
“We just played our 11th game,” senior V.J. Beachem said. “A lot of teams have played 12, 13, some even 15 games. It is tough to get into the rhythm, but it was good to have the practice time.”
The schedule has also been beefed up considerably compared to a season ago when New Haven began the year 9-0. Of the team's four losses, three have come to ranked teams a combined 37-4, including a four-point loss to Class 2A No. 2 Hammond Noll that marks the closest margin of victory for the undefeated Warriors.
“We tried to change our schedule, beef it up a bit,” Gooden said. “We don't mind playing tough schools. We just built it this way (in that we are backloaded with games). What can you do? Take it and go with it.”
The Bulldogs are in the midst of a busy schedule that includes five games in 10 days. Tuesday's game marked the second of those contests, with New Haven taking control early with a 28-point first quarter and a 39-19 lead at halftime.
The advantage would balloon to as many as 25 in the second half.
“We came out and set the pace in the first quarter,” Gooden said. “I think we can play better defensively, but rebounding we do well.”
Beachem is a proven solid rebounder, but a player who has come along greatly over the first half of the season has been 6-foot-11 junior Steve McElvene. The fan favorite had eight points and eight rebounds just in the first quarter and finished with a double-double with 13 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks.
Beachem, a Notre Dame signee, had a game-high 21 points and eight rebounds.
“Steve brings some size, he needs to get a bit tougher and is still learning, but he is getting there,” Gooden said.
New Haven appears to be getting there as well. The Bulldogs host Bishop Dwenger today before preparing for a huge NHC matchup against Columbia City on Friday.
Big games against Wayne, Homestead and Concordia Lutheran also loom in the coming weeks.
The Bulldogs have not won a postseason game since 2007 and Gooden is hoping to end that drought this season.
“Something Coach Gooden likes is to come out in January and get that roll going,” Beachem said. “Playing good in November and December is good, but when you get rolling in January and February … that is when you should be rolling.”
NEW HAVEN 75, SNIDER 60
Snider 9 10 22 19-60
New Haven 28 11 21 15-75
Snider: Covington 6, Washington 8, Halstead 10, Leander Williams 12, Lowe 4, Godfrey 2, Harvey 5, Spitnale 9, Devlyn Williams 4.
New Haven: Stevenson 6, Hogue 10, Ray 14, Beachem 21, Newman 3, Curry 6, Bolinger 2, McElvene 13.