Davenport West had it clicking on all cylinders in a first-half explosion before almost blowing a tire in the second half.
The Falcons held on for a 67-60 win over a pesky Davenport Central team in a game that saw the Falcons open with a 13-0 run and take a 42-22 lead into halftime Tuesday at George E. Marshall Gym.
The Blue Devils showed a lot of determination in the second half to come back, helped by a 2-for-9 night at the foul line by West’s Kenny Clay, who also had a lot to do with West’s big lead due to his 15 assists, 12 points and five steals.
Many of Clay’s passes found their way into the hands of 6-foot-8 Falcon Brett Erwin, who finished with 26 points and seven rebounds and 6-7 forward Trey Sampson, who added 13 points, six rebounds and two blocks. Erwin also had two dunks in the first half and made 11 of 16 from the field and 4-of-6 from the line.
“We just tried to come out with high energy,” Erwin said. “Rivalry game, obviously wanted to get momentum. Conference opener, a lot of fans here. Really efficient game. I couldn’t do it without Kenny and the rest of the team always looking for me.”
Erwin, who saw the 20-point halftime lead shrink to eight once in the third quarter and then to seven by game’s end, said he really wasn’t too worried.
“We weren’t quite ready for the (Central 2-3) zone defense (in the second half),” he said. “But we ended up still playing hard and made enough stops on defense.
“I was confident that we would make enough shots and come out and win the game.”
Indeed, the Falcons (2-0, 1-0 MAC) regrouped and were up by 12 heading into the fourth quarter, and the Blue Devils only closed the gap to under eight points in the final minute.
Having Clay did not hurt as he wreaked havoc on defense all night and then made short passes to his big men for easy buckets.
“I was seeing the court well,” Clay said, also noting he is usually a better free throw shooter. “We came into the game with an edge.”
It was the MAC opener for both teams, but only each club’s second game.
Davenport Central (0-2, 0-1) got 15 points from Nathan Tyson, 14 points from Diontrel Wommack and 10 each from Keshawn Pegues and Momodu Kargbo, but could not overcome the tremendous blend of quickness and height of the Falcons.
“Our kids came out with high energy,” said Falcon coach Mark Bigler, who also called Clay one of the more underrated point guards in the area. “Against their man defense, we executed our game plan very well.
“We want to fast-break whenever it’s there but Kenny does an outstanding job of controlling tempo to the game. We were able to get touches to our big kids, who really, really did well.”
Bigler credited Central’s 2-3 zone in the second half with changing the rhythm of the game a bit.
“Then when you are playing with a lead, instead of being quick, we got hurried and made some mistakes,” Bigler said. “Then we got a little tentative, which we can’t do. But that’s part of the season, you are trying to build on your weaknesses and getting better, and we will do that.”