Practice makes Capital perfect

Eagles improve to 16-0 after topping Rocky Mountain. © 2014 Idaho StatesmanFebruary 2, 2014 

Capital High’s Tarik Littlejohn reaches for a rebound over Rocky Mountain's EJ Boyce on Saturday. Capital won 57-49. The Eagles will try to keep their unblemished record intact when they play at Timberline on Wednesday.

Capital High boys basketball practices can get intense.

With a stacked roster and 13 hungry players, teammates don’t back down.

There’s always a chance one last steal or one more blocked shot could mean the difference between a spot in the starting five and a seat on the bench.

Coach Paul Rush estimates he’s changed his starting lineup 10 times in 16 games.

“It doesn’t matter who’s on what team. We just go at each other as hard as we can,” Capital sophomore guard Talon Pinckney said. “We make each other better. Sometimes we get mad, but it turns out for the better.”

The fierce competition in practice has made game nights that much smoother. The Eagles are now 16-0 overall and 14-0 in the 5A Southern Idaho Conference after Saturday night’s 57-49 win over Rocky Mountain.

“There’s times where we’ve got to back them off a little bit because they get a little intense in practice,” Rush said. “It’s an absolute battle. I think it’s what makes it so when we step on the floor in games, guys have seen that same level. They’ve seen that same intensity and physicality.”

Eleven different players got on the floor against the Grizzlies, and eight managed to score at least one basket.

For reserves like Pinckney — who logged fewer than 10 minutes against Rocky Mountain — practice gives him the opportunity to prove why he deserves more minutes.

It also makes it easier to stand out when he’s called off the bench.

The 5-foot-6 Pinckney did just that Saturday, making a thrilling, left-handed drive to the basket for an underhanded layup in traffic midway through the fourth quarter.

It brought his teammates to their feet.

“Talon, that boy will get into you (on defense), and he is frustrating, but it makes you a lot better,” said Capital starting guard Keegan Hansen, who played for Bonneville High last season.

Although it’s possible he could start for most other teams in the conference, Pinckney doesn’t mind coming off the bench.

“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. I love my teammates. I love the coaches,” he said. “I just love the program. Everybody fights with heart and I just love it.”

Junior point guard Derrick White led Capital with 18 points and six assists, and fellow starter Tarik Littlejohn fell a rebound short of a double-double with his 12 points and nine rebounds.

Rachel Roberts: 377-6422; Twitter: @IDS_VarsityX

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