DAVENPORT — Pushing the tempo is always a large part of Clinton boys basketball coach Nick Lawrence’s strategy.
On Tuesday night in their 83-44 win over Davenport North, the River Kings went for the gas from the beginning of the contest — and it paid off for them in a big way.
Clinton opened the game on a 16-1 run and never let the Wildcats back into the game, using their outside-inside combination of guard Jalen Jones and center Brady Ernst to overwhelm Davenport North. Jones finished with 28 points and Ernst added 18 in three quarters of action, as the River Kings’ reserves played the entire fourth quarter in the blowout at North High School.
“Coming into every game, we emphasize the first three or four minutes of each half,” Lawrence said. “(We want to) set the tone for the half right off the bat, and I think we established that tonight. We made a great run to start the game and built off that momentum. Guys played a little more relaxed, and we’re going to play with pace all year long. It was a nice bounce-back win for us.”
After a pair of setbacks last week against third-rated Dubuque Senior and No. 4 North Scott, Clinton (4-2, 1-1 MAC) was eager to redeem itself against a North squad that it had beaten by 40 points at home on Dec. 7. Quickly, the River Kings made sure to prove to the Wildcats (1-3, 0-2) that nothing had changed in the past 10 days. In fact, the only difference was that Clinton knew exactly what it needed to do to establish itself from the opening whistle.
“We were a little more prepared for them this time, and we knew how their guys played,” Jones said. “We wanted to get a lot of pressure and get some easy layups on the break.”
That was exactly what happened. Clinton’s first two baskets came on a theft by Derrick Howard and a Jones dunk to set the tone, and by the time the Wildcats hit their first basket at the 2:33 mark of the first quarter, Jones and Ernst had already combined to score 12 points. Most of those were a direct result of the River Kings using their lengthy wingspans to cut off North’s passing lanes and set up baskets in transition.
“We knew that we had them at (their) home this time, so we knew we had to play with a lot of intensity and effort to beat them again,” Ernst said. “We’re really long, and we can create havoc for offenses with our defense. When we play good defense, we get a lot of easy buckets in transition, which helps fuel everything else.”
The result was that Lawrence had the luxury of letting his reserves play for the entire fourth quarter and received a pleasant surprise when his backups outscored the Wildcats over the final frame, led by sophomore Colin Nelson’s 11 points in the last eight minutes.
“That’s their opportunity to try to score and build some momentum for their upcoming careers,” Lawrence said. “It was (also) an opportunity for us to rest some guys for a little bit, and (the reserves) all played well for us.”
The same could be said for everyone in a black uniform, leaving the River Kings much more pleased with their second performance in the league than they were following their conference opener with North Scott.
“I thought this was a nice example of a good team win,” Lawrence said. “All of our guys got involved and made a big play here and there throughout the game. When we play unselfish, play with pace and a lot of energy on the defensive end of the floor, I think we’re pretty solid.”
CLINTON 83, DAVENPORT NORTH 44
CLINTON — Jalen Jones 9 9-10 28, Brady Ernst 6 6-9 18, Thomas Smith 3 0-0 6, Jon Cady 2 0-0 5, Derrick Howard 3 0-0 6, Ashley Jones 0 1-4 1, Cole Pennock 3 0-0 6, Colin Nelson 3 3-4 11, Justin Horst 0 2-2 2. Totals 29 21-29 83
NORTH — Jordan Morgan 5 1-2 11, Shawn Butler 5 4-5 14, Kevin Murphy 3 2-4 8, Corey Lamonte 0 1-2 1, T.J. Moore 3 2-3 8, Rob Wolf 0 2-2 2. Totals 16 12-18 44.
Clinton 23 19 21 20 — 83
Davenport North 7 9 12 16 — 44
3-point goals — Clinton 4 (Nelson 2, Jalen Jones, Cady).