By Jon Gremmels
Herald Sports Editor
Xzavion Jones didn’t let it bother him when his shots weren’t going in early in the men’s basketball season. Like many scorers, he and his coaches knew the shots would fall eventually.
“I just kept shooting with confidence,” he said.
His shooting was on target Wednesday night, and many of his shots came at crucial times, too. Jones, a freshman guard from Davenport North, led all scorers with 27 points to lead Clinton Community College past the St. Ambrose junior varsity 72-51 at W.J. Yourd Gymnasium. The Cougars’ trio of Jones, James Randolph (14 points) and Charles Pemberton (14) outscored the Bees 55-51 in CC’s first win in four outings.
“It gets the monkey off our backs,” CCC coach Joe Shovlain said. “We’ve played prettier. I told the guys it’s a win, and we’ve got to learn how to win. It was one of those wins where — nothing against the team we played — but we played to their level a lot.”
Jones, though, seemed to play at a higher level than anyone else on the court.
“They were critical points,” Shovlain said of Jones’ baskets. “That’s why we moved him into the starting lineup. We think he can score, and you’ve got to have scorers in the lineup.”
Jones dropped in back-to-back 3-pointers — the first from the right side, the second from the left — over a 23-second span for a 6-2 lead after St. Ambrose had gotten two free throws by Willie Lipsey (13 points).
“We were looking for a 3-pointer,” Jones said. “I got nice screens from the big men and just had to take it and make it.”
Eric Adkins, who led the Bees with 16 points, answered with a 3-pointer to cut the gap to 6-5, but the Cougars never relinquished their lead.
Pemberton scored off an inside feed to make it 8-5, then sophomores Virshaun Grant and Richard Hurt turned turnovers into layups to stretch the lead to 12-7.
St. Ambrose made a few runs after that, but almost every time, Jones was there to thwart the comeback.
The Bees pulled within 14-13, but when they had the chance to go ahead on their next possession, Jones made a steal and layup with 11:55 left in the first half.
“I was trying to pressure the ball,” Jones said. “Once I saw I could make a play, I gambled a bit, and it came through for me.”
St. Ambrose countered with a free throw from Cullen Foulks to pull within 16-14, but B.J. Bostic, a freshman from Prince of Peace, stuck in a 3-pointer at the other end to make it 19-14.
“BJ gave us a spark off the bench,” Shovlain said.
A 3-pointer by SAU cut the lead to 19-17, then the Cougars scored 10 straight to go up 29-17 with 5:51 left in the half. Jones scored twice in the run on transition layups — one off a steal and the other on a long outlet pass from Pemberton.
“I think we played our defense a lot better tonight,” Jones said. “That’s what we had struggled on.”
The Cougars led 33-25 at halftime, then built the advantage to double-digit margins for most of the second half.
St. Ambrose did close within 42-38 when Lipsey scored a pair of baskets to start an 8-0 run, but the Cougars responded with a free throw from BeeJay Caleb, a feed from Caleb down low to Pemberton for a basket and a three-point play by Jones on a layup and free throw with 11:09 left for a 48-38 lead.
The Bees cut the gap to single digits again moments later, but Jones again was fouled as he converted a transition layup. The free throw made it 52-41, and the Bees never got closer than 10 after that. Jones finished with four 3-point baskets and three three-point plays.
“Our goal was to win by 20 or more and hold them to under 50,” Shovlain said, satisfied that his team almost hit both goals.
The Cougars play twice more before Thanksgiving. They travel to Moline, Ill., to face Black Hawk at 6:30 p.m. Friday, then return to Yourd Gymnasium to take on Iowa Lakes at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“They’re both good teams,” Shovlain said. “We’ll have to play well to win, no doubt, but both are winnable games.”
Getting that first win Wednesday can do nothing but help, Jones said.
“It was really important (to beat SAU),” he said. “It gives us a lot of motivation to go in to these next games and hope to get more wins.”
CLINTON COMMUNITY COLLEGE 72, ST. AMBROSE JUNIOR VARSITY 51
ST. AMBROSE — Geordon Hetherton 1 0-0 2, Willie Lipsey 4 4-4 13, Eric Adkins 6 0-0 16, Zach Jadzak 0 2-2 2, Adam Koncel 0 0-0 0, Joey McEachern 0 0-0 0, Matt Neubauer 0 0-0 0, Cullen Foulks 0 1-2 1, Nick Ollero 0 0-0 0, David Sherman 0 0-0 0, Jelani Yancey 2 0-0 4, Zach Lundquist 1 0-0 3, Fabian Virgies 1 0-0 2, Richie Finger 4 0-0 8, Kyle Dennison 0 0-0 0, Zach Coiner 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 7-8 51.
CLINTON CC (1-3) — Virshaun Grant 1 0-0 2, Richard Hurt 4 0-0 8, Xzavion Jones 10 3-3 27, James Randolph 3 8-10 14, Charles Pemberton 6 2-2 14, Dominique Helgemo 0 0-0 0, Kimani Stevens 0 0-0 0, BJ Bostic 1 0-0 3, Dane Barun 1 0-0 2, BeeJay Caleb 0 2-4 2. Totals 26 15-19 72.
Halftime — Clinton 33, St. Ambrose 25. 3-point goals — St. Ambrose 6 (Adkins 4, Lipsey, Lundquist); Clinton 5 (Jones 4, Bostic). Total fouls — St. Ambrose 14, Clinton 10. Fouled out — None.
Officials — Tony Lasek, Steve Langhauser, Fritz Larsen.