Clinton experienced a nightmare scenario Monday night with Cedar Rapids Xavier sophomore Adam McDermott starring as the villain.
Only there was no waking up for the River Kings.
McDermott scored the first 12 points, Xavier scored the first 21 and the Saints went on to beat Clinton 73-38 in a Class 4A Substate 4 boys basketball first-round game.
“Without a doubt, that’s the worst start we’ve gotten off to this whole season,” Clinton coach Nick Lawrence said.
“They were hot,” Clinton junior Jalen Jones said. “It’s kind of hard to stop a team when they’re shooting like that. They were setting a lot of screens, and we had to chase them around the court. They were just knocking down their shots.”
McDermott knocked down a 3-pointer to open the scoring. He scored the next basket and then hit a 3-pointer, was fouled and made the free throw for a 9-0 lead. McDermott then drained another 3-pointer to give him 12 points in about half of a quarter. He came into the game averaging 8.2 points a game.
“Coach told me I needed to shoot more,” McDermott said. “I got off to a good start. I got open looks and just kept shooting.”
Trey Sampson scored the next five points for the Saints and then Calvin Winker and Matt Nelson each made buckets for the 21-0 lead.
“We went through our plays and executed them real well,” McDermott said.
“We just did not play with energy on the defensive end of the court,” Lawrence said.
Jacob Judd finally put Clinton on the board with a bucket about six minutes into the game, but by then the damage was done.
“I think No. 1 was just our mentality,” Lawrence said of the early struggles. “We did not come out and play with the fire we needed to play with.”
McDermott said he and his teammates talked about getting a good start, but 21-0 was beyond what they hoped for.
“This was a lot better,” he said.
Xavier (11-11) may have thought it had thrown an early knockout blow, but Clinton wasn’t ready to give up, even when the Saints stretched their lead to 28-4.
Brady Ernst made a jumper, then Jones made a free throw and scored a bucket for a quick 5-0 run. After McDermott drilled another 3-pointer, Clinton went on a 9-0 run. Jones made a pair of jumpers, Jon Cady hit a 3-pointer and Derrick Howard connected on a short jumper in the lane to pull the River Kings to within 31-18.
“To our credit, the guys battled back,” Lawrence said. “They battled back and put together a solid second quarter. If it weren’t for a couple plays at the end of the second quarter, we’d have gone in with a manageable deficit at halftime — something we felt we could overcome in the second half if we got back to playing how we’re capable of playing.”
Lawrence said defense was a key to that 14-3 Clinton run.
“It was just the focus defensively,” he said. “We came down and we got stops. We played with more energy and were a lot more active. Offensively, we were attacking the basket. I think by our count, we hit three of 21 or 22 3-point attempts. When you’re not shooting the ball well, you’ve got to do something different. We kept stressing that during timeouts and quarter breaks, ‘You have to attack the rim.’ When we did that, good things happened.”
But Nelson made a pair of layups in the last minute of the half to stretch the lead to 17. Nelson scored 16 points, but the story was McDermott and his game-high 21 points.
“I did not see that coming,” Lawrence said. “He shot lights out in the first half. He’s averaging around eight (points) a game. We knew he was a solid 3-point shooter but nothing that was going to blow the doors off everybody.”
In the third quarter, Jones took over for Clinton (7-15). He knocked down two 3-pointers and two jumpers, all contested. But Clinton’s only other points in the quarter came on two inside buckets by Ernst and a free-throw-line jumper from Judd. Xavier extended its lead despite Jones’ hot shooting.
“It feels good (to do that), but I was just trying to get my team back in it, so we could make a run of our own,” Jones said.
Jones scored 19 points, 17 in the second and third quarters, for half of Clinton’s total.
“That’s one of the issues that we talked about all year,” Lawrence said. “In order for us to be successful, we have to have everybody contribute.”
In the second and third quarters, each team scored 30 points. In the first and fourth quarters, Xavier outscored Clinton 43-8.
“Inconsistency has been an issue for us all year long and that’s what hurt us tonight,” Lawrence said. “We can’t play hard and well in spurts and then have extended periods of time where we don’t do well and play undisciplined basketball.”
Despite Clinton’s fight in the middle quarters, the game was effectively over after McDermott put up the first 12 points. The River Kings did not get within 10 points after that.
“When you get to the postseason, everyone is 0-0 and it’s win or go home,” Lawrence said. “I don’t think we understood the gravity of the situation. Hopefully for the guys coming back next year, this leaves a sour taste in their mouth.
“It’s always disappointing No. 1 when your season ends. We talked to the guys afterward and I guarantee that to a ‘T’ all them would say we didn’t play even remotely close to how we’re capable of playing.”
Jones said the team was going to use this loss as motivation.
“We’re going to think about this a lot,” he said. “We’ve got to get motivated for next year to get a lot of wins and try to make a run at the state tournament.”
CEDAR RAPIDS XAVIER 73, CLINTON 38
CLINTON (7-15) — Rodney Witherspoon 1 0-0 2, Robbie Thacker 0 0-0 0, Tyler Thacker 0 0-0 0, Zach Pope 0 0-0 0, Derrick Howard 2 0-0 4, Jalen Jones 8 1-2 19, Brady Ernst 3 0-0 6, Austin Reyhons 0 0-0 0, Jon Cady 1 0-0 3, Jacob Judd 2 0-0 4, Justin Michel 1 0-0 2. Totals 17 1-2 38.
XAVIER (11-11) — Matt Downey 0 0-0 0, John Peters 0 0-0 0, Calvin Winker 1 2-2 4, Trey Sampson 6 0-0 15, Patrick Mullin 0 0-0 0, Adam McDermott 8 1-1 21, Andrew Bisenius 1 0-0 3, Greg Foxhoven 1 0-0 2, Matt Nelson 8 0-2 16, Corbin Woods 1 0-0 2, Reggie Schulte 1 0-0 2, Robbie Thinnes 3 0-0 6, Frank Hill 1 0-0 2. Totals 31 3-5 73.
Clinton 4 14 16 4 — 38
Xavier 23 12 18 20 — 73
3-point goals — Clinton 3 (Jones, Cady); Xavier 8 (McDermott 4, Sampson 3, Bisenius). Total fouls — Clinton 6; Xavier 9. Fouled out — None.