Clinton senior Christian Rowan brings the ball up the court Tuesday night during the River Kings’ season-opening 72-31 loss to Cedar Rapids Jefferson. Rowan scored seven points, six in the first quarter.

Clinton played a great first eight minutes of the boys basketball season Tuesday night against Cedar Rapids Jefferson. The River Kings led 19-18 after the opening quarter.

“We got off to a great start,”  Clinton coach Nick Lawrence said. “I was really proud of the way our guys came out of the gate ready to roll. Obviously things fizzled in a hurry. That’s one of the things we talked about a lot over the summer, being able to come out and set the tone right away. ... I was very pleased with the way we started the game.”

Things went downhill quickly after those first eight minutes for the River Kings. Jefferson held Clinton to 12 points for the rest of the game, while Jefferson scored 54 to pick up a 72-31 win.

“I was not happy with the way we responded to their runs,” Lawrence said. “They went on a run and we kind of went into a shell and away from everything we had done well in the opening period.”

Clinton shot 5-of-8 from 3-point range in the first quarter, but went 1-of-5 for the rest of the game. Jefferson pressured the River Kings more on the perimeter and Clinton did not take as many long-range shots.

“We’re kind of finding our identity,” Lawrence said. “We’re going to go through some growing pains, but our guys show up everyday ready and willing to work.”

One thing that did not help with Clinton’s identity was the River Kings were without sophomore Jalen Jones, who is expected to have a breakout season. He missed the game due to illness.

“We experimented a little bit tonight with guys in some different positions,” Lawrence said. “It was tough not having Jalen here tonight. He’s kind of been the focal point of what we’ve done so far. For our guys to basically try to adapt on the fly is tough. We had guys in positions they’re not typically used to playing. That’s our fault as coaches. You need to prepare for stuff like that because you never know who you’re going to have.”

Clinton didn’t seem to miss Jones in the first quarter, at least after taking a little time to adjust.

Jefferson led 10-3 midway through the first quarter, but that’s when the River Kings made their move.

Tyler Thacker and Javontez Washington drilled 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to pull within three points. With just over a minute left in the quarter, Christian Rowan made his second 3-pointer of the quarter to tie the score at 16.

Thacker then hit his second 3 of the quarter to put Clinton ahead 19-16 with 30 seconds left.

“JJ Washington came in and did some good things off the bat,” Lawrence said. “Tyler Thacker stepped out and knocked down some open shots. Christian Rowan stepped out and knocked down some open shots. That’s what we need those guys to do. They’re some of our better shooters. That’s what we expect from them. They got us off to a good start.”

Jefferson started the second quarter on a 19-4 run to go ahead 37-23. Washington knocked down a 3-pointer with 2:30 before the half to cut Jefferson’s lead to 37-26. The River Kings didn’t make a field goal for the next 11 minutes, 10 seconds of gameplay. The streak ended when Jacob Judd grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on a putback. Judd scored four points and pulled down seven rebounds.

“We’re going to get better as the season goes on,” Lawrence said. “We’re young. We’re going to make mistakes. It’s a learning process. But some of the mistakes we made, there’s no excuse for.”

Lawrence said he was pleased with the varsity debut of one of his players.

“I was very pleased with what Brady Ernst gave us,” Lawrence said. “For a freshman to come into a varsity game against a quality team like Cedar Rapids Jefferson and have an impact like he made, I couldn’t have been happier.”

Ernst scored three points and blocked two shots.

The River Kings will be back in action Friday night against Camanche in a semifinal of the River City Classic.


JEFFERSON (1-0) — Alec Saunders 5-11 2-2 13, Jacob Olson 1-2 0-0 3, Creighton Robinson 2-7 1-2 5, Ky Kramer 4-9 0-0 11, Tyler Hemphill 1-3 1-2 3, Taylor Mueller 0 0-0 0, Daniel Eggers 1-2 0-0 2, Taylor Olson 10-17 3-4 23, Andre Kearney 0-0 0-0 0, Layne Sullivan 0-0 0-0 0, Austin Goodell 1-1 0-0 2, Brandon Wiederin 0-0 0-0 0, Terry Jenkins 0 1-2 1, Justin Underwood 3-6 3-3 9, Terrance Taylor 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-58 11-15 72.

CLINTON (0-1) — Rodney Witherspoon 0-0 0-0 0, Tarian Mayzes 0-4 0-2 0, Tyler Thacker 3-9 0-0 8, John Gunderson 0-1 0-0 0, Ben Rowan 0-2 0-0 0, Javontez Washington 3-3 1-4 9, Christian Rowan 2-7 1-2 7, Zach Lemke 0-2 0-0 0, Brady Ernst 0-2 3-4 3, Jacob Judd 2-5 0-0 4. Totals 10-35 5-12 31.

Jefferson    18    28    14    12    —    72

Clinton    19    7    2    3    —    31

3-point goals — Jefferson 5-11 (Kramer 3-6, Saunders 1-1, J. Olson 1-2, Robinson 0-1, T. Olson 0-1); Clinton 6-13 (Washington 2-2, C. Rowan 2-4, Thacker 2-5, Mayzes 0-1, Gunderson 0-1). Total fouls — Jefferson 15; Clinton 17. Fouled out — none.