Herald Staff Report
Coach Nick Lawrence wasn’t sure how his Clinton boys basketball team would respond the next time out after ending a 36-game losing streak in Mississippi Athletic Conference play last Friday.
When the River Kings fell behind by 10 points in the first quarter, it couldn’t have been a good feeling. But, his team fed off Friday’s win, came back and defeated Davenport West 78-70 on Tuesday night.
“I really think that Muscatine game was kind of a springboard for us,” Lawrence said. “That was definitely a confidence boost for our kids.”
The River Kings (4-6, 2-4 MAC) erased most of the early double-digit deficit by halftime, but a play that could have been a huge boost for the Falcons wound up shifting the momentum to Clinton in the third quarter.
Jerry Myles, a 6-foot, 5-inch freshman scored on a dunk to put West back on top 42-41. But, he was called for a technical foul for hanging on the rim.
Instead of the play demoralizing the Kings, they fed off it.
“It really shifted the momentum in our favor,” Lawrence said, adding that it was the first time he could remember a dunk having a negative effect on a team. “They struggled to recover off that.”
Jalen Jones (20 points) made both free throws on the technical, then Brady Ernst scored and Clinton led 45-42 halfway through the quarter. Baskets by Jacob Judd and Ernst followed, and West was forced to call a timeout with 3:02 remaining.
The Falcons (5-5, 3-2) never got closer than four after that.
“When you take everything into consideration, West being an above .500 team, for us to go out on the road and win against a solid MAC team, this was big for us,” Lawrence said.
Early on, though, it appeared as if a winning streak was just a dream for the Kings.
After Derrick Howard drained a 3-point field goal to pull Clinton even at 3, West scored six of the next eight points. The first of three first-quarter 3-pointers by Marlon Stewart put the Falcons up 12-7, and Myles followed with a layup for a 14-7 lead.
A three-point play by Ernst cut the gap to 14-10, but the Falcons closed the quarter on a 10-4 run to make it 24-14. Stewart hit a pair of 3s — the second just before the buzzer — sandwiched around a pair of baskets by Nasir Shabazz.
The River Kings didn’t give in, though.
“We kept our composure and made some adjustments,” Lawrence said. “We started in a zone, anticipating some problems with their athleticism. They got hot early, and we went back to our man defense and were a little more active.
“On offense, we stressed being patient. We thought if we could make them defend for 15-20 seconds, they’d break down.”
The adjustments worked out well.
Clinton’s big men on the inside finished with season highs in points — 25 for the 6-6 Ernst and 10 on 5-for-5 shooting by the 6-3 Judd.
Clinton started its comeback by scoring eight of the first 10 points of the second period. Jon Cady had a pair of baskets and an assist in the run.
“He was really a huge spark for us coming off the bench,” Lawrence said, “so was Judd.”
West pushed its lead back to seven, 34-27, but Brady Ernst responded with a 3-pointer and a dunk in a personal 5-1 run that pulled the Kings within 35-32 at the half. He finished the half with 12 points.
Jones took over after halftime. His driving basket gave Clinton a 36-35 lead, its first of the night.
The teams traded leads four times before Myles’ dunk and technical, but Clinton led the rest of the way after Jones made the go-ahead free throws.
CLINTON 78, DAVENPORT WEST 70
CLINTON (4-6, 2-4) — Justin Michel 0-0 0-0 0, Jalen Jones 5-9 9-12 20, Brady Ernst 9-12 6-7 25, Tyler Thacker 1-4 0-0 3, Derrick Howard 6-11 3-6 16, Jacob Judd 5-5 0-1 10, Jon Cady 2-7 0-0 4. Totals 28-48 18-26 78.
WEST (5-5, 3-2) — Marlon Stewart 8-18 5-6 24, Tyrus Johnson 1-3 1-2 3, Jerry Myles 7-16 3-4 18, Nasir Shabazz 4-12 4-4 14, Geo Butler 3-8 2-4 8, Isaiah McClellan 0-0 0-0 0, Andrew Shipman 1-1 0-0 3, Isaiah Ross 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-58 17-20 70.
Clinton 14 18 25 21 — 78
West 24 11 14 21 — 70
3-point goals — Clinton 5-13 (Thacker 2-3, Ernst 1-1, Jones 1-3, Howard 1-4, Cady 0-2); Davenport West 7-17 (Stewart 3-7, Shabazz 2-5, Shipman 1-1, Myles 1-2, Butler 0-1, Johnson 0-1). Rebounds — Clinton 32 (Judd 8, Ernst 8); Davenport West 22 (Johnson 7). Total fouls — Clinton 13; Davenport West 23. Technical foul — Myles. Turnovers — Clinton 13; Davenport West 11.
Sophomores — Clinton 69, Davenport West 44.