DJ Carton and Dylan Peeters have been friends — good friends — for a very long time.
They both play in the Quad-City Elite AAU basketball program and have had five or six years of hanging out together in hotel rooms, playing video games while waiting for the next basketball activity. They play NBA 2K, Fortnite, all sorts of games.
“I’m better than he is but he’ll never admit that,’’ Peeters said.
But Friday night in Davenport Assumption’s gym, it was Carton who got the best of it.
The two stars went head to head, mano a mano, for the entire second half as if there was no one else on the court before Carton and No. 2-ranked Bettendorf escaped with a 51-44 victory over Peeters and Assumption, setting up the Mississippi Athletic Conference game of the year on Monday.
That’s when Bettendorf (17-1, 14-1 MAC) hosts No. 1 North Scott with everything on the line.
But before that, Carton had to hold off his pal Peeters.
Carton tossed in 20 points in the second half and Peeters did the same. Everyone else on both teams combined for 19. There were stretches of several minutes in the last two quarters in which no one else on either team even thought about attempting a shot.
This came after a first half in which Peeters scored only three points.
“He’s a good player,’’ said Carton, who suffered an ankle injury with about a minute to go. “I knew that side of him would come out because he’s a competitor.
“I'm just proud that our team was able to do what it had to at the end.''
Carton finished with 28 points and became Bettendorf’s career scoring leader in the process, passing Cole Clearman. He had only two points in the first 17 minutes, then poured in six points in the final minute of the half to stake the Bulldogs to a 23-13 lead.
Peeters went into attack mode after that, though.
“Coach (Matt Fitzpatrick) got on us pretty good at halftime,’’ Peeters said. “With Anthony (Valainis) out, I was the only senior out there so I had to take charge.’’
He twice helped the Knights (10-8, 8-7 MAC) chop the deficit down to four points, the last time with a 3-point field goal with 2 minutes, 19 seconds remaining.
However, Carton made two free throws to up the margin to 47-41, then drove the baseline for a resounding lefthanded jam with 1:19 to go.
When Peeters made a spin move to get to the hoop at the other end, Carton swatted away his shot and the Bulldogs held on from there despite a late 3-pointer by Assumption’s Ray Kotula.
Carton went to the bench with a sprained right ankle a few seconds after blocking Peeters’ shot although he was able to come back into the game for a few seconds after that.
Peeters finished with 23 points with Kotula adding 11. Assumption had four players who went the full 32 minutes.
The Knights played without Valainis, their No. 3 scorer, No. 2 rebounder and No. 1 physical presence. He is undergoing concussion protocol and Fitzpatrick said the earliest he is likely to return to action would be Thursday for a game against Davenport North.
“I’m pretty confident he will be back by the time we start postseason play, which is the main thing,’’ he added.
Both Assumption and Bettendorf play three more league games next week because of weather-related postponements with the big one being that Lancers-Bulldogs showdown on Monday.
“I’m just happy these guys get a chance to be in that type of game and play in that type of atmosphere,’’ Bettendorf coach Curtis Clark said. “Not many people get to do something like that.’’
Carton was still hobbling on his ankle following Friday’s game but he assured questioners that he will be there.
“It’s pretty bad,’’ he said with a grimace. “But I’m playing Monday. I have to.’’