While standards are always high for the Camden Catholic boys' basketball team, coach Jim Crawford is a realist.
The bar that is set in December differs from those in January, February and, more important, March, when the Irish have made a habit of enjoying extended seasons.
So in addition to the leaks that must be plugged, Crawford saw plenty of positive signs in last night's 65-53 win over visiting Timber Creek in an interdivisional Olympic Conference game.
The play at times was choppy, and the Irish committed six turnovers in the second quarter and five in the third.
Still, they beat a quality Timber Creek team despite the usual growing pains in the beginning of a season.
"Coach told us after the game that there are things we have to work on," said senior Jahseer Bronson, who scored 15 points and is already looking comfortable at point guard after playing shooting guard last year.
Still, Crawford wasn't down on the effort. One of his top scorers, junior forward Tim Crawford, his nephew, was in foul trouble and held to four points.
Fellow 6-foot-6 junior Gerry Wixted picked up the slack with 25 points and 12 rebounds while shooting 8 for 12 from the field. Junior guard Anthony D'Orazio scored 10 of his 13 points in the second half.
"I am not disappointed in our performance," Crawford said. "I am understanding of it."
Teams seeing that Camden Catholic is ranked No. 1 in South Jersey by The Inquirer might expect a team that can just blow opponents away with talent.
While there isn't a shortage of talent, the essence of the Irish has always been teamwork.
Camden Catholic has feasted for years with a motion offense that back-doors teams to death.
"You know what is coming, but they execute so well that you can be prepared for it but stopping it is another matter," said Timber Creek coach Tim Dunne, whose team is a deceptive 0-2.
Crawford mentioned that his team had about 20 slippages, which are a combination of turnovers and missed assignments.
Since this was only Camden Catholic's second game, with the first being a rout of Camden County Tech, the veteran coach, who has guided the Irish to 20 consecutive 20-win seasons, is a little more understanding.
"The standards will change in January and in the following months," Crawford said.
Still, he saw the big picture. He won against a tough Timber Creek team that will try to survive until point guard Jamere Briggs returns from arthroscopic knee surgery in early January.
Timber Creek is the defending South Jersey Group 3 champion and, when healthy, shouldn't relinquish that title very easily.
Camden Catholic is the defending South Jersey Non-Public A champ.
"You saw two South Jersey champions play each other, and it was quality basketball," Crawford said.
Quality for now, but improvement will be expected.
The key is not to judge Camden Catholic or any team in December. The Irish likely won't dazzle teams, choosing precision over sizzle.
Still, it has been a great formula for success. And last night was just another lesson along the way that should pay dividends in a few months.