The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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February 13, 2013

Kings pile up points

Clinton scores 93 vs. West

CLINTON — Halftime had barely begun and a few Clinton players wandered upstairs in Yourd Gymnasium and grabbed basketballs out of the rack, ready to get going again.

Energized by a putback dunk at the buzzer by Brady Ernst that capped a 52-point first half, the River Kings weren’t interested in rest.

“As hot as we were in the first half and as well as we were playing, we didn’t want to go to halftime,” Clinton coach Nick Lawrence said. “We had some guys come up with about 6 1⁄2 minutes left, and we called them back down and said, ‘Chill out for a second and grab a Gatorade.’ If we could have, we would have just played right on through.”

When Rodney Witherspoon scored on a flashy move in the lane, and Austin Reyhons scored off a turnover seconds later for the final points of the game, the River Kings on the bench rose to their feet, cheering with broad smiles on their faces. It was the best feel-good game in years for Clinton as the River Kings rolled over Davenport West 92-63 on Tuesday for Clinton’s Senior Night.

“This is the first game that I really felt that we carried the momentum from start to finish,” Lawrence said. “We didn’t get complacent or comfortable with where we were at. We kept our foot on the throttle the whole time.”

For a senior class that had won just one game combined their sophomore and junior years, Tuesday’s seventh win of the year was a send-off to remember.

“It was really special,” senior center Jacob Judd, a regular in the starting lineup, said, after joining classmates Rodney Witherspoon, Tyler Thacker, Ben Rowan and Justin Michel in an all-senior starting lineup. “All the seniors loved it. We got a lot of playing time for everybody, so that was good.

“We were probably more excited than nervous (about starting). We wanted to leave everything on the court, and I thought all the seniors played like that tonight.”

Lawrence decided to honor the seniors by having all of them start, although regular starters Jalen Jones, Brady Ernst, Jon Cady and Derrick Howard all were at the scorers’ table waiting to enter the game before a minute had gone by.

“That’s a tough situation for those (seniors) to be in,” Lawrence said. “A handful of them haven’t seen much time at all throughout their high school careers, let alone started a game, and for them to come in and maintain our level of play was big.

“We actually just told the guys tonight coming in that we were going to go with an all-senior lineup. It’s one of those situations where you don’t want to give them too much time to think about it. There’s kind of a bit of a shock factor. You don’t want guys dwelling on, ‘Oh, I’m not going to start,’ or ‘I’m going to start; I’m really nervous.’

“I kind of waited till the last minute ... and everything worked out well for us.”

The final statistics even gave Lawrence a chance to joke, “I think we set a record for most points off the bench tonight.” The senior starters combined for 23 points, the “reserves” totaling 69 — 24 by Jones, 20 by Howard and 18 by Ernst.

The usual starters joined Judd on the floor at the 7:05 mark, and it didn’t take Jones long to give Clinton the lead. He buried the first of five 3-pointers (10 for the whole team) with 6:36 left for a 3-2 lead. West led once more, 4-3 on a basket by Marlon Stewart (game-high 26 points), but Clinton owned the rest of night.

Derrick Howard drove the right baseline and scored with 6:03 left for a 5-4 advantage, then Jones grabbed the ball after Ernst blocked a shot and passed ahead to Howard for a fastbreak basket. Next, Cady drove the right baseline and scored, then Jones finished the 8-0 run with a press-break layup.

“I wanted to come out hard for our seniors; it was Senior Night,” Jones said. “I wanted to send them off on a good note this year, get a good up-tempo game going under control and play hard.”

West scored five of the next seven points to pull within 13-9 but got no closer. Jones saw to that.

Jones delivered a pair of 3-pointers 21 seconds apart to push the lead to 19-9.

“He’s really starting to assert himself as one of the best players in the state, and I don’t think there’s any question about that,” Lawrence said of the 6-foot-5 junior. “He’s putting up big numbers on 10 to 15 shots, distributing the ball, rebounding the ball, running the show, really cutting down on turnovers, doing a nice job.”

Howard, a freshman, also enjoyed a big night. He scored both baskets as Clinton ended the first quarter on a 4-0 run to go ahead 27-15.

“I just tried to get to the basket, finish layups and do what I could do to get the win,” he said. “We pushed the ball really good. Jalen was throwing the ball up the court, and we really executed and finished layups.”

Ernst opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer that pushed the lead to 15, and the Kings stretched it to 22 (48-26) when he nailed another one with 2:20 left in the half. But his biggest basket might have come on a putback jam after a miss by Judd in the final seconds of the half.

“Even though we had a pretty comfortable lead, that tip dunk that Brady Ernst had at the end of the first half was a huge boost for us, energy-wise,” Lawrence said. “Our guys came down in the locker room and they were jacked. They were excited, and at the same time they maintained focus. That’s exactly what you want to see.”

Once they got back on the court for real before halftime ended, they showed Lawrence even more that he liked.

“We came out in the second half, and Derrick Howard got a big steal to start the third quarter,” Lawrence said of the play that started a 6-0 run that extended the lead to 58-28. “That was one of the things we talked about at halftime was you come out and set the tone the first couple minutes of the second half and make it that much harder for those guys to climb out of that hole. I was really happy with how the guys responded.”

Although they couldn’t sustain the scoring frenzy of the first half, the River Kings put up another 40 after halftime and won with ease.

 “Once we got the lead, we just had to keep on them and play disciplined defense and push the ball on offense and get good layups and good shots,” Jones said.

And a good win, one of the best Lawrence could remember in his time with the program, which includes serving as an assistant on the 2009-10 team that won the Mississippi Athletic Conference title and advanced to the state tournament.

“We played at Davenport West down there (that year), and it was one of those nights where we were really rolling,” Lawrence said. “But, as far as just the overall efficiency from start to finish and scoring 93 points, I don’t remember an offensive output like that. And a very solid defensive performance, as well.”

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