By Jon Gremmels
Herald Sports Editor
Coach Nick Lawrence said there was a good lesson his Clinton boys basketball team could learn from a disappointing loss Tuesday night and apply to its game Friday.
If the River Kings paid attention to the way Davenport North played as it rallied for a 64-57 victory in Tuesday’s Mississippi Athletic Conference game, Lawrence said they should have learned what they need to do Friday against Burlington.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think we see enough of that mentality out of our guys,” he said. “That’s a game (Friday) they should have circled on the schedule, a game we thought we should have won down there. Now, they’re coming to our place, and it’s an opportunity to pay someone back and get back on track here with a big win.”
That’s how North viewed Tuesday’s game — the River Kings beat the Wildcats by a point at the River City Classic.
“We didn’t have all our players then,” said Rashad McClinton, who didn’t play in the first meeting. “Since we got all of our players back, I think that’s what made us win.”
Perhaps, but it also was a case of the Wildcats digging deep after trailing 8-0 in the opening minutes and by 10 points in the third quarter.
“This is a game that they (North) feel they can win,” Lawrence said. “We beat them by a point earlier in the season (and) this is a payback game for them, playing on their homecourt. You could definitely feel the energy level with those guys. In that situation, that’s when we need to match that energy level but at the same time maintain our focus and discipline, and we did not do that.”
McClinton, a 5-foot-11 senior, helped light the fire under the Wildcats. He scored North’s first nine points of the fourth quarter as it turned a 44-41 deficit into a 50-47 lead.
“He was a huge, huge spark for us,” North coach Dan Schneiderman said. “Defensively, he gives us that little spark. Anything he brings offensively is just a plus. He’s been attacking the basket well, he’s been looking to spot up and shoot. His shot is flat, but if he gets open, he’s got the green light, and tonight he knocked down some that were huge.”
McClinton said he felt his play was a key.
“I always bring something to the team,” he said. “Even if we’re down I have to bring something like intensity. get teammates involved. I helped out the team a lot today, I really did.”
Clinton battled back, getting a pair of Jalen Jones free throws on back-to-back possessions to go ahead one last time at 51-50 with 3 minutes, 18 seconds remaining. But, Blain Samuelson scored on a spin move down low to put North back in front with 3:02 left, then McClinton stole a lob pass at the basket on Clinton’s next possession.
North then scored the next six points on a drive by Quay Holmes, a layup by Connor Mollenbeck and pair of free throws from Holmes for a 58-51 lead with 1:20 left, and Clinton had neither the offense nor the time to come back.
Early, North struggled to score.
Clinton jumped to a quick 8-0 lead in the opening 2:41 on a 3-pointer from Tyler Thacker, a three-point play from Brady Ernst and a basket by Jacob Judd. But, the Wildcats responded before Clinton scored the final five points of the half to reach intermission ahead 31-26.
Jones opened the second half with a 3-pointer, then Ernst scored on a 17-foot jumper and Clinton led 36-26 with 6:41 left in the period.
But, once again, North battled back. Clinton still took a 43-41 lead into the final quarter when Ernst dropped in a 3-pointer with :25 left.
Ernst, who tied Jones for game-high honors with 22 points, buried another 3 early in the fourth quarter for a 47-43 lead, but then North caught fire.
“Pushing the ball (was the key),” McClinton said. “We know we’re faster, so we just kept pushing the ball.”
Lawrence said the River Kings got caught up in that.
“They’ve got athleticsm all across the board,” he said. “They play hard. They’re not afraid to get in your face and push the tempo a little bit, and that bothered our guys. When they did that, we got back on our heels and we didn’t take care of the basketball. We weren’t looking to be aggressive offensively, and it took us out of our element.”
Lawrence said the Kings committed 24 turnovers on the night.
Scoring wasn’t the only area where Jones and Ernst carried the load for the Kings.
“Outside of Brady Ernst, Judd and Jalen Jones, we had six rebounds,” Lawrence said. “That’s not going to get it done for us.
“We need to get contributions out of everybody. Games we’ve been successful in are games where we got contributions out of everybody that played. We can’t have guys that play big minutes stepping on the floor and not giving us anything but turnovers. That’s not going to cut it for us, especially against MAC opponents and playing on the road.”
Like North on Tuesday, the River Kings will seek some payback Friday when they entertain Burlington in the second half of a girls-boys doubleheader at WJ Yourd Gymnasium.
It’s a huge disappointment. An opportunity to come in and win another MAC road game, we were in position to take control of the game and if we played within ourselves, played disciplined basketball, we didn’t do it. They started pushing the tempo a little bit, and instead of us relaxing and controlling the pace of the game, we fell right into what they wanted to do.
DAVENPORT NORTH 64, CLINTON 57
CLINTON (4-9, 2-7) — Tyler Thacker 1 0-0 3, Derrick Howard 2 1-2 5, Jalen Jones 7 6-7 22, Brady Ernst 9 2-3 22, Jon Cady 0 1-2 1, Jacob Judd 2 0-1 4, Justin Michel 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 10-15 57.
NORTH (4-9, 2-7) — Blain Samuelson 5 2-2 14, Connor Mollenbeck 4 1-2 10, Rashad McClinton 6 0-1 14, Jacob TeBrake 0 0-0 0, Quay Holmes 3 6-6 12, DeMarcus Davis 5 3-5 14, TJ Moore 0 0-0 0. Totals 23 12-16 64.
Clinton 11 20 12 14 — 57
North 11 15 15 23 — 64
3-point goals — Clinton 5 (Jones 2, Ernst 2, Thacker); North 6 (Samuelson 2, McClinton 2, Mollenbeck, Davis).