Leading visiting Davenport North by just two points at halftime of Tuesday’s Mississippi Athletic Conference contest, third-ranked Bettendorf needed a lift.
Bulldogs star D.J. Carton provided it.
The Ohio State signee got steals and dunks off of North’s first two possessions of the second half, giving the Bulldogs the spark they needed. Bettendorf led by 11 after three quarters and went on to a 59-47 win on senior night.
“He gave us a lot of energy right there, and we needed it,” Bettendorf senior Trevor Feller said of Carton’s steals and slams. “That really gave us a lift.”
After foul trouble limited Carton’s playing time in the first half, he scored 19 of his game-high 21 points after the intermission.
“There have been a lot of games this season where I’ve had two or four points in the first half, but that’s just how I play,” said Carton, who went 8-for-9 from the field in the second half. “I like letting things come to me. In the second half, I like to take over and be more aggressive on the scoring end.”
The win sets up a big game for Bettendorf (19-1, 15-1 MAC) on Thursday night. A win at 10th-ranked Central would give the Bulldogs a share of the conference title.
“This was awesome,” Feller said of the senior night victory, “but we know we have work to do on Thursday to get a MAC championship, and that’s what we’re worried about.”
Feller nearly single-handedly kept Bettendorf in the game in the first half of Tuesday’s contest. While the Bulldogs struggled offensively, coughing up nine turnovers in the first half, Feller poured in four 3-pointers before the break. He ended up with a season-high 18 points on Tuesday night, all on 3-point shots.
“That’s what I told our staff. I said, ‘If Trevor Feller wasn’t on tonight, we’d be down 10 at half,’” Bettendorf head coach Curtis Clark said. “But the reality is Trevor’s been doing that pretty consistently all season. Even last night, it was a night he was off a little bit, and similar to D.J., he stuck with it. Those two guys have put enough time into the game that eventually it will reward them.”
And the Bulldogs’ persistence came through in the second half. They overcame a lackluster start a night after defeating top-ranked North Scott and pulled away from the Wildcats (8-11, 7-9 MAC) for the win.
“It wasn’t a whole lot of Xs and Os. It was more about our focus,” Clark said of his halftime speech. “We preached and preached just that emotional challenge that you have coming off that big win and then the next day you have a team coming in that’s hungry and wants to play upset. Thankfully we had a good third quarter where D.J. got out and got a couple steals and easy baskets. That seemed to help everything.”