CLINTON — The last time the Clinton River Kings stepped onto the floor in a game situation was Dec. 17, more than two weeks ago. Even though they played a scrimmage or two along the way, picking up right where they left off was a difficult task.
Still, Clinton defeated Davenport Central 68-62 on Friday night, thanks to a big third-quarter run.
Before that, Clinton and Davenport Central traded baskets and turnovers, which Clinton coach Nick Lawrence expected after having that much time off from a game experience.
"This is probably the scariest game of the year," Lawrence said. "It's almost like starting over again. You come to expect that mistakes that we normally wouldn't make do happen, and some of that is to be expected.
"The most important thing is,however, that we came out with a win."
Clinton committed 20 turnovers in its fifth win of the season.
"It's extremely difficult to get back into the swing of things," said senior Jalen Jones, who led the River Kings with 20 points. "We tried to scrimmage and practice, but it's not the same as a live game situation."
Jones was not in the starting lineup after being tardy for a shootaround earlier in the day.
"He handled it well, and I thought the team handled it well, too," Lawrence said. "He knew that was his punishment, accepted it and moved on."
Jones found it weird to be sitting on the bench at tip-off.
"It felt really weird not being out there, but I understood why," he said.
The second half started more pleasant for the River Kings, who came out of the locker room on a 12-0 tear in a span of three minutes.
"Going into each game, we really emphasize the first few minutes of each half," Lawrence said. "I thought we came out with a lot of energy in that stretch, forced some turnovers, had a couple big energetic plays that got us going."
Three big players who put that streak to life were Jon Cady with six points, Derrick Howard with five made free throws and Jones with two baskets in which one of them was a fastbreak dunk.
That 12-0 run was much needed toward the fourth quarter when the Blue Devils strung up a little streak during its 26-point fourth quarter.
"We mismanaged some things during that time," Lawrence said. "We had some lazy passes, didn't convert on our free throws like we should have, and if we do those things, I don't think the contest would have been as close as it was."
One of the most noticeable disadvantages to Iowa high school basketball is that the Iowa High School Athletic Association does not allow schools to have sanctioned games over the holiday break.
Schools are allowed to scrimmage but not have tournaments, much like the tournaments held in Illinois before Christmas and in between Dec. 25 and New Year's Eve. Lawrence would like to see that changed.
"I don't think you'll find a coach in Iowa who wouldn't want to play in holiday tournaments," he said. "This time of the year is almost a new season within a season with the long layover. I absolutely would love to see that."
Clinton returns to the floor Tuesday night when Davenport Assumption comes to town for a girls-boys doubleheader.
CLINTON 68, DAVENPORT CENTRAL 62
DAVENPORT CENTRAL (4-4) — Troy Weiman 0 0-0 0, Tyler Hoeksema 3 0-0 8, Geo Butler 8 1-5 18, Nick Hairston 1 1-3 3, Ryan Kurth 1 0-0 2, Matthew Moran 5 4-6 15, Tim Rummels 3 3-4 9, Pachino Hill 1 0-2 2, Dei Ron De La Rosa 2 0-0 5. Totals 24 9-20 62.
CLINTON (5-2) — Robbie Thacker 0 2-4 2, Zach Pope 1 6-8 9, Jalen Jones 6 7-8 20, Jon Cady 3 2-4 8, Colin Jones 0 0-0 0, Ashley Jones 0 2-2 2, Derrick Howard 3 5-6 12, Cole Pennock 0 0-0 0, Thomas Smith 0 0-2 0, Brady Ernst 6 2-3 15. Totals 18 26-37 68.
Davenport Central 13 12 11 26 — 62
Clinton 15 15 21 17 — 68
3-point goals — Davenport Central 5 (Hoeksema 2, Butler, Moran, De La Rosa); Clinton 4 (Pope, Jones, Howard, Ernst). Total fouls — Central 27, Clinton 22. Fouled out — Hairston, Kurth, Rummels, De La Rosa, Jones, Ernst.