Clinton’s week of heartbreak continued Friday.
Three nights after losing to visiting Davenport Central on a putback at the buzzer, the River Kings had the chance to spoil a home game for Davenport Assumption. But, with the seconds ticking down and a chance to tie or win, the River Kings turned over the ball, and the Knights added two clinching free throws with 4-tenths of a second left to win the Mississippi Athletic Conference boys basketball game 53-49.
“Obviously, a tough loss,” Clinton coach Nick Lawrence said. “But, to be able to have the opportunity to go to Assumption and play the No. 3 team and have a one- or two-possession game, I’m proud of the way the kids bounced back after a tough loss Tuesday. I think it’s another step in the right direction. Our guys are beginning to realize that when you play the way you’re supposed to, you can compete with anybody. That was evident tonight.”
Clinton had an upset win at its fingertips against the Knights, ranked third in Class 3A, in the final minutes. The Kings led 46-44 after sophomore Thomas Smith made 1 of 2 free throws, then a basket by Jalen Jones pushed the lead to 48-44.
But Billy Daniel, Assumption 6-foot-5 senior standout who posed problems for Clinton inside all night, scored down low to pull the Knights within 48-46. Colin Gould then made a steal and layup for the eighth tie of the game, and Daniel scored again with about 3 1⁄2 minutes left to give Assumption (13-4, 10-2 MAC) the lead for good.
Clinton had a couple of opportunities to pull even but missed a pair of shots. Assumption then slowed its offense and ran more than a half-minute off the clock before Jones created a steal for Clinton.
Derrick Howard made 1 of 2 free throws to cut the gap to one, but Daniel made 1 of 2 at the other end to give Assumption a 51-49 lead.
Clinton then called timeout with 7.8 seconds left to set up a final play. Jones had the ball in the free-throw circle with a chance to shoot but tried to pass the ball inside, and Assumption’s Matt Vonderhaar came up with the ball. Vonderhaar was fouled and made both free throws with four-tenths of a second remaining for the final margin.
“We told Jalen if he had a shot to take it,” Lawrence said. “He pulled up and looked to dump to (Jacob) Judd, and it didn’t quite work out for us.”
Coming off Tuesday’s 63-61 loss to Central, Clinton let Assumption know early in the contest that the second matchup of the year between the teams would be closer than the first. Assumption won the first meeting 72-36 on Dec. 14 in Clinton.
Daniel traded baskets with Clinton’s Jones, Brady Ernst and Judd to open the game before a 3-pointer by Vonderhaar broke a 6-6 tie.
Assumption led 15-11 after one quarter and extended the lead to 19-13 midway through the second half before Clinton scored six straight to tie the game.
Daniel put Assumption back on top, but Jones tied it. Daniel then scored again, and a steal and layup by Evan Wadsager gave the Knights a 25-21 lead at the break.
The River Kings used a strong start in the third quarter to take the lead.
“To start the second half the way we did was big for us,” Lawrence said.
“I believe we started the second half on an 11-0 run. Jalen was knocking shots down. They made a mini run, then it was a back-and-forth game.”