The Clinton River Kings fell behind early and couldn’t find the hoop, adding to their season-long scoring problems with a 53-24 loss to Bettendorf in Mississippi Athletic Conference play Thursday night at Yourd Gymnasium.
It was the first home game for the River Kings since their Dec. 12 matchup against Davenport Central.
“This was kind of our season in a nutshell,” Clinton Head Coach Chris Powers said. “Our kids played hard and played good D overall but we just have to start making shots. That’s been the season: we’re an offensively challenged team. We can’t complain about the shots we’re getting we just need to start knocking them down.”
The River Kings were still without normal starter and second leading scorer LJ Henderson, who is out with a hand injury for another 1-2 weeks.
Clinton got on the board first, with Ricky Clay finding Bret Myli on the block and Myli picking up the foul, putting one of two free throws in. Bettendorf would follow that up with a 12-0 run for the next six minutes.
With 1:20 left to play in the first Ty McGruder picked up a foul and drained one free shot, and DeVonte McGee put in a bucket on the next possession but the River Kings were already down 12-4 after the first eight minutes of play.
Trevor Feller hit three 3-point field goals in the first quarter to help the Bulldogs jump out to the big lead.
“We changed it up after he hit a few threes, and then we kind of held him in check the second half. We had to take our chances with him because [DJ] Carton is Carton, he’s the real deal. He was averaging 26,” Powers said. Feller ended the game with 14 after only scoring five in the second half, while DJ Carton led Bettendorf with 17 points.
The River Kings were 2-7 from the free throw line in the first half and turned the ball over six times. They went into halftime down 25-10.
“Sometimes I think the guys get a little impatient,” Powers said. “I tell them to wait for the good shot—if it happens in three passes, great. If it happens in ten passes, great. I think they get impatient but overall we had good shots tonight, we just couldn’t knock them down.”
Senior Brennen Lemke left the game after taking a charge late in the first half and did not return for the remainder of the game. Powers said Lemke had a sore back and they didn’t want to risk injuring it more at this point in the season.
The third quarter didn’t improve, with the Kings only putting up another six points. It wasn’t for lack of chances. Clinton only turned the ball over three times in the third quarter and had six offensive rebounds. The ball just didn’t fall, and they started the fourth down 39-16. Clinton was outscored 14-8 in the fourth.
This kind of night is nothing new for the Kings, who are averaging just 32 percent from the field on the season. They are also shooting under 60 percent as a team from behind the line.
The story was the same Thursday night: Clinton ended the night 4-14 from the free throw line.
“It’s where we are at right now offensively,” Powers said. “That’s how you get back in the game or get something going is getting points at the free throw line.
“It’s just something the kids have to work on. They have to get in the gym and do more shooting. I told them you need to keep playing hard, keep rebounding the ball an hopefully our offense will start knocking shots down. It’s all it comes down to.”
Even with the offensive problems, Clinton only committed nine turnovers while forcing 11. They also out rebounded the Bulldogs, including 8 offensive rebounds. The majority of these were from Bret Myli and Jared Simpson.
“With LJ [Henderson] out, guys are getting the chance to step up and see what they can do. Hopefully that can provide us with a little more depth when LJ gets back,” Powers said. Simpson is one of the players seeing more playing time. “That kid is very athletic and very active. He gets a lot of rebounds for us defensively and he keeps them alive for us offensively. We get second chances because of how athletic he is on the boards.”
Clinton falls to 1-11 overall on the season, and they travel to Muscatine next Tuesday. Clinton lost 57-42 in their first meeting with the Muskies earlier this season.