Film a key part to the Blue Bolts’ success

Dollar Bay's Jacob Iacono goes up for a layup during the Blue Bolts' quarterfinal win over Cedarville on Tuesday. (Jason Juno/Daily Globe (Ironwood))

DOLLAR BAY — On any given weekday evening, Mrs. Kentala’s classroom at Dollar Bay may be occupied. Her third graders aren’t in session, but the Blue Bolts are. That is where coach Jesse Kentala and the team watch film, squeezed into little maroon chairs meant for 9-year-olds, with a banner that reads “Good luck Blue Bolts” above their heads.

There are shapes on one side of the board — the third graders are learning about quadrangles — and there are numbers on the other side — the Blue Bolts are learning about their opponent’s personnel.

Fitting for the setting, Kentala starts the session out with a quiz. He calls out numbers and asks the Blue Bolts to identify each players’ tendencies, and who will draw the defensive assignment.

As a coach, Kentala understands how important film sessions are, but as a teacher, and a former teenager, he also understands high school boys.

“It is easy to kind of nod off and fall asleep or screw around in film, or even in practice for that matter,” he said. “They are 17-year-old kids. I get it, so we try to keep them actively engaged.”

In the postseason, that becomes even more crucial, as Dollar Bay’s only understanding of its opponents comes from film.

In the regular season, games are marked with familiarity, but during playoffs, it’s all new.

“Right now it is all about understanding, because we don’t see these teams ever, so film is the only way we have to see these players’ tendencies,” Kentala said. “Right now it’s not so much about looking at what we do per se, it is more about looking at what other teams do.”

During the regular season, that’s different. The Blue Bolts still watch in the same classroom on the same projector, but they often focus on their own play, rather than the oppositions.

And like everything during the rise of the Dollar Bay program, film has been a work in progress.

“One of the mistakes I made early on, was how we looked at our film,” Kentala said. “We broke it down and it was all negative. And we walked out of these film sessions and people were thinking ‘well I’m no good.’ So we try and keep it 50/50. We show them areas where they have to improve, and where we had breakdowns, but then we always look at things we do right. That has really changed the outlook.”

It’s apparent in the mood of the Blue Bolts; things remain light and there are plenty of jokes.

Still, the purpose of watching film is to learn, and they are doing that too.

Kentala sits on a stool at the front of the classroom clutching a paper full of notes. He calls out timestamps, and one of his assistant coaches fast forwards to the key parts of the tape, where Kentala identifies strengths and weaknesses of the opposing team.

He also watches what the other team does and figures out how Dollar Bay can use similar schemes.

“We steal. I’m a thief,” Kentala said laughing. “Most of what we do and what we run has come from other programs, and I’m not above taking, borrowing or using what other teams have done successfully.”

Dollar Bay may not be playing an original style of basketball, but it’s working. The Blue Bolts, who have yet to lose a game, find themselves in the semifinals against Southfield Christian today at 5:30 p.m. in East Lansing.

No doubt the Blue Bolts will watch plenty of film before the contest, they will just have to find a new venue for viewing — Mrs. Kentala’s classroom is a long way from the Breslin Center.