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The defending champion Mavericks don’t mind slowing their usual fast pace.

On opening night of the season in the Marshall basketball league, they made an adjustment midway into the first half and beat the first-year Trashed Pandas 66-55. This was one of five games Dec. 3 on the two courts in Marshall Wellness Center.

Mike Baez and newcomer Lee “Smitty” Smith scored 22 points apiece for the Mavericks. Baez, the team captain, made six 3-pointers and had 14 rebounds. Adrian Hargrove had 10 points. Breion Ware had 11 rebounds while Lorenzo “Zo” Burks grabbed nine.

“They had a pretty good team,” Baez said. “We didn’t hit shots early and they kept the game close and then we slowed it down and got some good shots. And then we pulled the ball out to pull them out of their zone. We were real rusty.”

Smith, the point guard, scored 17 points in the first half as the Mavericks led 35-22 at halftime. The staff sergeant arrived in April from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and he is assigned to the Army Materiel Command.

“It was my first time playing so I had to adjust to them,” Smith said. “But I think around the 10-minute mark (of the first half), we started figuring out their zone and started making some shots. And then I think our full-court pressure made some easy buckets for us and got some easy layups.”

Smith, 35, from Memphis, played at Southern Illinois in 2005-06 and then joined the military.

“I was rusty at first. Once I got a couple of layups in, I started catching rhythm,” he said.

Nick Haas scored 16 points for the Trashed Pandas which is one of the two new teams in the 11-team league. Hunter Olive had 12. Joe Keywood had 11 points and 12 rebounds. Chase Pendley, the team co-captain, had 11 points and two blocks. Michael McCreless grabbed nine rebounds.

“This is our first time playing in a while,” Pendley said. “So I thought we played really well considering none of us have played basketball within the last year.”

The Mavericks won the 2018-19 Division A championship and finished unbeaten at 17-0.

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