BETTENDORF – Examining the negatives is not something the Clinton boys’ basketball team did on Friday night.
The River Kings’ resiliency was too important to ignore.
Rather than wither against Bettendorf while facing a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit, the River Kings hung tough. Clinton found a way to get within one possession late before absorbing a 58-52 Mississippi Athletic Conference loss to the Bulldogs.
“In the past, we would not have stuck with it once we got down,” Clinton senior guard Max Holy said. “I’m glad to see we stuck with it and pushed through.”
Entering the fourth quarter, Clinton trailed 48-33 after an eight-point third. With less than 30 seconds left in regulation, they were within 54-52 before Taylon Hayes missed a contested runner near the right block.
Bettendorf (1-6, 1-2 MAC) sealed the victory by converting four of its six foul shots in the last :33.7.
“These guys are starting to believe in themselves like we believe in them,” Clinton coach Troy Ersland said. “I was proud of the effort. They stuck together.”
At times, doing that presented challenges.
Each of the first three quarters featured a different theme that plagued the River Kings. Bettendorf senior forward Lucas Hayes dominated the first quarter. Clinton (1-5, 1-3) could not consistently hit shots in the second. Defensive rebounding was the culprit to start the second half.
All that added up to the River Kings being down 15 with eight minutes left. After Taylon Hayes’ 3-pointer with 1:02 left in the game, Clinton faced a 54-52 deficit.
The River Kings did not allow Bettendorf to get comfortable in that closing stretch.
“This is still a group that’s trying to find itself,” Bettendorf coach Curtis Clark said. “We haven’t had an opportunity to win too many games. It’s probably good for us to go through a tight game like that and close it out.”
Lucas Hayes proved problematic most of the night, with the 6-foot, 8-inch post player scoring a game-high 22 points and grabbing six rebounds. At one point, he had half of the Bulldogs’ points.
In the first half, he had 17 points and converted eight of his 10 shot attempts.
“I thought we had an advantage there,” Clark said. “You would think we could play through Lucas throughout the season. He may not always score 22 points for us, but I hope that’s an area other teams will have to focus on, and that can open up opportunities for us.”
When the River Kings were able to limit Lucas Hayes’ touches, they struggled converting outside shots. Clinton hit four of its 15 attempts from the 3-point line in the first half. It took seven treys in the third, converting two.
Clinton was outscored 13-8 in the frame.
“We were getting stagnant,” said Holy, who had 14 points, four rebounds and three assists. “We were waiting for our shot to get open instead of driving and kicking. We need to work on our offense.”
Taking care of the ball – Clinton had 12 turnovers – was not the issue. The River Kings could not consistently hit shots, converting 36.7 percent (18 of 49) of their shots.
“We’re streaky, so we have to be more consistent,” said Ersland, who received 16 points from Taylon Hayes and 12 more from Damarcus Knox. “We’re getting there. We’re putting in some new stuff. I felt like we were more confident in shooting the ball, though. That’s what I want them to be.”
Despite a 48-33 deficit, Clinton displayed confidence in the fourth quarter. Holy hit treys on consecutive possessions. Knox buried a trip midway through the quarter. Taylon Hayes splashed a 3-point to start the frame and added another to slice the deficit to 54-52.
On the defensive end, the River Kings held Bettendorf without a field goal for the last 6:19 of the contest. The Bulldogs’ last four points came from the foul line.
Resiliency gave Clinton a shot.
“We fought to the end,” Ersland said. “We left everything out there. Are there things we can improve upon? Yes. But at this time last year, we weren’t at this point. We would’ve given up when we were down double digits. We didn’t do that. That’s growth.”