Unless you’re playing them, it’s a treat to watch the Davenport North girls basketball team play, even after a two-week plus layoff.
Their star player, Iowa-bound Jinaya Houston, is the best passer on the team, and happy to do it.
And as the Wildcats proved Friday at Assumption High School gym in a 78-63 win over the Knights, they have three big-time scorers. Paige Bradford, a 6-1 junior forward, led the way with 28 points despite only scoring two in the second quarter.
That was then Jacionna Stowers, a 5-6 powerful guard, came to life, scoring 10 of her 13 points as the Wildcats turned an 18-18 tie into a 36-25 lead with an 18-7 run.
Then there’s Houston, a 6-1 senior who seems to come through just when her team needs her to. She passed, hustled and scored 25 points while taking and making just one 3-pointer. She finished making eight of 11 from the field.
“For me, when you see those passes through a little slot, those are the best passes to me,” Houston said. “My big thing isn’t really shooting, it’s being an all-around player — shooting, rebounding, assists — all that kind of stuff.”
The big three combined for 64 points for North (7-1, 6-1 MAC).
“I feel like us three, the big three, if they play one player more than the other, it’s when the other two players come into play,” Bradford said. “We all play as a team and we score.”
“It was surprising,” Bradford said of her point total that was complemented nicely with 10 rebounds. “I get all the rebounds off the shots or I get good post place.”
The Knights battled and sandwiched a 10-0 run over the end of the half and the start of the third to cut the lead to one point, but Houston hit a 2 and Mckenzie O’Brien a 3 igniting a 16-6 run that decided things.
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North coach Ron O’Brien wasn’t all that pleased at halftime, but clearly also realized his team was coming off a long break in games.
“It was a much better effort in the second half,” said O’Brien, whose team was outrebounded 13-11 by the smaller Knights in the first half. “It showed it was the first day back after 16 days off. Thank God we got that game in before tomorrow night’s game with Rock Island (in the finale of the IHMVCU Shootout at Augustana).
“We were rusty. Effort there was a little questionable in the first half but they responded a little better in the second half.”
Assumption (6-4, 3-2) was led by Jasmine Harris’ 21 points and Carlye Brown’s 11.
Both teams are in action Saturday. North is looking forward to the showdown with the 16-1 Rocks, ranked third in Illinois Class 4A.
“Playing Rocky tomorrow, we know will be tough,” Houston said. “But coming out tonight like we did, it would be a close game, but coming out with more strength and more focus (Saturday), I think it will be a better game.”