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Slow start dooms Knights in 72-67 loss

Posted: December 19, 2016 4:11 p.m.
Updated: December 20, 2016 1:00 a.m.
Tom Didato/C-I photo/

NORTH CENTRAL HEAD COACH Kerry Hayes uses a break in the action from Thursday’s game with McBee to instruct senior forward Zach Jones.

Well before the start of Thursday’s game with visiting McBee, North Central boys’ basketball coach Kerry Hayes was talking with one of his players and telling him the importance of getting off to a good start in the opening minutes of the contest.

When the Knights headed to the locker room to get dressed for the game, their first-year head coach repeated his earlier sentiments to the team as a whole.

The result was laying a first quarter --- 23-7 deficit --- egg. By the time the hosts woke up, it was too late as their furious fourth quarter comeback --- with NC scoring 30 points --- was not enough as the Panthers left The Castle with a 72-67 victory.

“We had to show up with a lot of intensity because their guys came out ready to play and our guys started out flat,” Hayes said of his team’s struggles in the early going of this game. “We didn’t come out and start the game like we usually do.”

The Panthers were energized thanks to their having their entire team intact after members of the school’s football team, which advanced to the class A Lower State finals, were back in the fold. With their newfound depth, the visitors were able to make five-for-five substitutions and did so, extensively, in the first half of play.

As for the Knights (2-4), they found the energy which Hayes was hoping to see from the opening tip in the latter stages of a contest in which the hosts trailed by as many as 27 points, at 54-27, midway through the third quarter.

McBee, which drained seven of eight 3-point attempts in the first half, found a lid on the basket in the fourth quarter as the visitors kept attacking the basket and throwing up shots with little regard for trying to melt down the game clock. 

The Panthers appeared to have this one in pocket as they carried a healthy 59-37 advantage after three quarters only to have NC open the fourth quarter by pressuring the ball and scoring the first five points of the fourth. It would be Markell Portee completing both ends of a conventional 3-point play to chop the lead to 59-42. But MHS responded with a 7-2 run with a pair of Dave Holloman free throws making it 66-44 with less than six minutes remaining in a fourth quarter which took more than 30 minutes to play.

Cam Holley, who underwent knee surgery in the summer, used Thursday’s game as his return to the hardwood and he came up big down the stretch. The junior guard sank four straight free throws to sandwich a Zeidel Clark fast-break layin which would reduce the deficit to 66-50 with 4:47 to play. A missed free throw from the Panthers helped NC’s 13-0 run along.

A stickback from NC’s Jermaine Jenkins, a 3-ball from Holley from the left corner and a pair of Clark free throws made it 66-57. Two more missed foul shots from McBee led to a pair of Tyler Faulkenberry foul shots as the Knights used a 22-7 run in the first five-plus minutes of the final stanza to narrow the margin to seven points at 66-59 with just under three minutes to play in the game.

McBee, which made just one field goal in the final nine and half minutes of play, would regain its touch from the charity stripe down the stretch in knocking down six of its final eight tries. The last two came courtesy of Shane Hammonds, who led all scorers with 27 points, with 23.7 ticks left in the game clock to push the lead back to double digits at 72-62.

The Knights closed on a 5-0 run with a Portee trey with 10 seconds to go being followed by a pair of Tyreek Jenkins foul shots with 3.7 seconds remaining.

As cold as the Panthers were from the field to close the game, they were as hot coming out of the gates.

McBee used a trio of 3-point baskets in the opening five and a half minutes of the evening to grab a quick 17-5 lead. The fact that they made wholesale changes to their rotation did not help as the visitors tried to wear down the Knights.

“Every three minutes, I think, they were switching out five guys in the rotation,” Hayes said. “Our guys’ conditioning has gotten a little better but their guys had fresh legs every time they came out or, went in. They were able to apply pressure on us but, again, we didn’t come out and play the way we normally do.”

Hammonds turned the second stanza into his own personal marksmanship class as he drilled three consecutive shots from beyond the arc with the third of those extending the MHS lead to 36-13 with 3:45 left in the first half. For good measure, the Panthers closed the opening 16 minutes of play with Dominic Wright burying a 3-ball at the buzzer to send the visitors into the locker room with a 45-22 lead at the half.

McBee made seven shots from distance on the night with each of those coming before the break.

“I think they hit seven of their eight 3-point shots. That’s kind of unheard of in the high school game,” Hayes said of McBee’s early hot-shooting streak. “But our guys weren’t putting a hand in the face of their shooters and we were moving slowly on defense.”

Hiking up the pressure on defense coming out of the break, the Knights received steal and a layin from Holley and a putback from Clark to score the first four points of the second half and get the lead down to 19 points. In less than three minutes, the spread stood at 27 as a traditional 3-point play from Hammonds was trailed by a Tyrece Wright putback to make it a 54-27 game with 4:46 to play in a third quarter which ended with NC on the short end of a 59-37 score.

Hayes said the third quarter goal was to get the Panther lead down to 10 or less points.

“Our guys made a run at it but, in the end, it was too much of a deficit to overcome,” he said.

In his first game back, Holley led the Knights with 15 points while Clark and Faulkenberry had 14 and 12, respectively.

While the start was not what Hayes was hoping for on Thursday, the way the Knights battled back at the end was a bright spot for their new head coach.

“I keep talking to my guys about preparing and getting their minds right,” he said. “We have to come out with intensity and we can’t come out flat and try to overcome a lead, which is what we did tonight.”


MHS (72): Trevon Reed 3 2-3 8, Shane Hammonds 8 7-8 27, Nick Boyle 2 0-1 4, Tyrece Wright 2 3-3 8, Austin Lane 2 2-2 7, Matt McCoy 1 0-0 2, Connor Kirkley 1 0-0 2, Dave Holloman 2 3-5 7, Dominic Wright 1 0-0 3, B.J. Mitchell 0 1-2 1, David Williams 1 1-1 3. Totals: 23 18-28 72

NC (67): Tyreek Jenkins 1 3-4 5, Zach Jones 1 2-4 5, Zeidel Clark 5 4-4 14, Tyler Faulkenberry 5 2-4 12, Cam Holley 4 6-6 15, DaShon Bethea 1 0-0 2, Markell Portee 3 5-5 12, Jermaine Jenkins 1 0-1 2. Totals: 21 22-28 67

Score by quarters: First: MHS, 23-7; Halftime: MHS, 45-22; Third: MHS, 59-37; Three-point goals: MHS 7 (Hammonds 4, T. Wright, Lane, D. Wright), NC 3 (Jones, Holley, Portee)



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