One look at the game-opening center jump illustrated what the short-handed Davenport West boys basketball team was up against Tuesday.
Davenport Central’s 6-foot-7 Kaiden Phillips lined up across from the Falcons’ 5-10 Logan Petersen, flicked the opening tip into the Blue Devils’ backcourt and sent Central on its way to a 58-38 Mississippi Athletic Conference victory.
The Blue Devils scored the game’s first eight points, jumped out to a 13-2 lead which grew to 20-4 before West’s Jermaine Gardner beat the buzzer with a 3-pointer at the end of the opening quarter.
“We usually don’t get off to a quick start and that was something the coaches have been talking a lot about, starting fast, playing a full four quarters,’’ Phillips said. “We came out ready.’’
With the Falcons’ starting frontcourt — 6-8 Aldane Barrett and 6-3 John Michael Thornton — sidelined by injury, the Blue Devils attacked the glass early and often on their way to a 34-13 halftime lead.
“We did a lot of good things in the first half,’’ Central coach Craig Wurdinger said. “It was good to see us get off to the type of start that we did. I just wish we could have sustained in the second half.’’
West had something to say about that.
The Falcons were able to chip away at the Blue Devils’ lead in the final two quarters, taking the ball to the basket, drawing fouls and showing the type of grit West coach David Robinson wanted to see from his team.
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After trailing by 21 at the half, the Falcons were down 41-26 after three quarters and pulled within 50-38 when Phearless Caruthers scored off of a turnover with 3 minutes, 40 seconds remaining in the game before Central scored the game’s final eight points.
“Even after the slow start, we didn’t quit. I felt like in the third quarter we were able to slow them down a bit and played tough on both ends of the court,’’ Robinson said. “We got it down to a manageable number, but I felt like we ran out of gas.’’
Phillips, who led the Blue Devils with 14 points and 11 rebounds, knocked down a shot. Amari Porter, collecting seven of his 11 points in the fourth quarter, hit a pair of baskets down the stretch to help Central secure the win.
“For a while, we were taking too many threes, but we settled down and got back to doing what gave us that 15-, 18-point lead, we got the ball inside,’’ Wurdinger said.
“Because of the guys they had out, we had a size advantage that we needed to make the most of. We did that early and late, but for a bit we forgot how we got that lead.’’
The Blue Devils (13-5, 12-3 MAC) enjoyed a 39-27 advantage on the boards, with Emarion Ellis complementing Phillips’ work by grabbing eight rebounds to go with 13 points.
Gardner and Jamal Winston led the Falcons (2-14, 0-12), finishing with 15 and 14 points respectively.’’
“The guys are giving me everything they’ve got,’’ Robinson said. “But, when you’re down a couple of big guys like we are and you're facing a team with the size Central has, it makes it tough.’’