Perhaps the Clinton student section might not want to chant "overrated" at Bettendorf's D.J. Carton the next time the River Kings and Bulldogs meet.
After a somewhat sluggish first half for the Bettendorf junior and Division I prospect, Carton exploded for 19 of his game-high 25 points in the second half of Tuesday night's Mississippi Athletic Conference clash to lead Bettendorf to a 67-33 win at Bettendorf High School.
Carton's energy on defense and explosive plays on offense helped energize Bettendorf to pull away from what was a close game at halftime. Bettendorf led 28-20 at the break before Carton almost single-handedly took over.
He scored 16 points of Bettendorf's 23 points in the third quarter and assisted on six of the other seven points, which were two three-pointers from Phil Gist.
"Knowing how good (Carton) is, we executed a pretty good game plan in the first half. In the second half, (Carton) just took over, got some transition baskets and took it to the basket," Clinton coach Chris Powers said. "It got them going and our guys kind of lost our focus and lost our discipline a little bit in the second half and a player like Carton is going to make you pay."
Gist had 17 points for the hosts and Devynn Wakefield contributed 19 rebounds to go with 12 points for the Bulldogs (2-1, 1-0 MAC).
But it was Carton who seemed to shift it into another gear. He had six points in the first half on 1-of-5 shooting and four free throws. Carton's aggression early in the third led to four more free throws to help Bettendorf maintain the lead at 33-24 early in the third quarter.
But that's when things got interesting. Carton had a put-back and then had an assist to Gist that led to one three-pointer that was part of a 13-0 run by the Bulldogs that all but put the game away. After two foul shots by Clinton's Brennen Lemke, Carton grabbed defensive rebounds on two consecutive possessions and went strong to the hoop and converted two three-point plays in just 20 seconds.
He capped it off by getting a steal near mid-court and throwing down a thunderous one-handed dunk. His eight points in 28 seconds left Bettendorf ahead 46-26.
Carton finished the quarter with another nifty assist to Gist for a three-pointer followed by a jumper in the lane. By the end of third, the Bulldogs led 51-28.
Carton was not the only hero for Bettendorf in the third quarter. Big defensive plays from Lucas Hayes and Gist also helped limit Clinton to 2-for-9 shooting for the field. The River Kings (0-2, 0-1) had just one field goal in the final 5 minutes, 17 seconds of the third quarter. Hayes had two steals and Gist, Trevor Feller and Joseph Parker also took defensive charges in the second half.
Bettendorf out-rebounded the visitors, 37-25, for the game and limited Clinton to just four second-chance points.
"On Saturday (a Bettendorf loss), we didn't guard very well, didn't rebound very well, didn't shoot very well but that changed tonight," Bulldogs coach Curtis Clark said. "Clinton has really good bigs, they are long and physical but we did a good a pretty good job of matching that (in the paint)."
Wakefield did not seem to mind banging around with the big boys underneath. He had 12 of his rebounds in the first half.
"Devynn struggled in different facets of the game but, boy, did he rebound the heck out of the ball," Clark said. "So Devynn really put an emphasis on that and really helped us a lot."
Wakefield said rebounding was something he really worked on at practice.
"Our coaches were on me this week about rebounding because it just makes the team better," he said. "I just wanted to do that and bring some energy to my teammates. I knew that if I kept fighting (in the paint), it would help our team."
Lemke and Devonte McGee each had eight points and Ricky Clay had nine rebounds for the River Kings.