Going into Tuesday, the Davenport North boys basketball team had lost to Bettendorf 19 consecutive times. No one was entirely sure but they thought it had been 16 years since the last time the Wildcats won a game inside Bettendorf’s gym.
Since the Wildcats came in on a three-game losing streak, the prospects for that changing didn’t seem bright. And when their leading scorer fouled out in the middle of the fourth quarter with the score tied, it looked even less likely.
But Max Taylor and his buddies weren’t about to let this opportunity slip away.
Taylor scored six of his team-high 22 points in the last three minutes and the Wildcats survived a 34-point explosion by D.J. Carton to escape with a streak-snapping 55-53 victory over Bettendorf.
“We haven’t won here since, I think coach said 2003 (actually 2002), somewhere around there,’’ Taylor said. “It feels good to go on the road and win a big game. We ran into a rough patch … so it really feels good to win this one.’’
The Wildcats (6-4 overall, 4-4 in the Mississippi Athletic Conference) put together the winning stretch with leading scorer VJ Wilmington and leading rebounder and shot-blocker Jared Beck on the bench. Both had fouled out.
“I thought our guys were very resilient,’’ North coach Joe Ewen said. “We’d had a couple of good days of practice … I thought the guys responded really well and found a way to get it done.’’
North shredded Bettendorf’s defense for much of the first half with Taylor and Wilmington combining to score all but one of its first-half points. It held a 31-18 lead before Carton finished the half with a 3-pointer.
Carton spearheaded a second-half comeback that briefly put the Bulldogs on top. When Wilmington, who scored 17 of his 20 points before halftime, committed his fifth foul with 4 minutes, 13 seconds remaining, Carton made one free throw to tie the score at 44-44.
But TJ Vesey, who had been quiet much of the night, scored on a drive to put North back on top and four straight free throws by Taylor made it 50-44.
The Wildcats held on from there. Keenan Hollingshed made three foul shots in the final minute, the last one making it 55-53 with 23 seconds to go.
Carton was forced to launch a 35-foot prayer at the buzzer and it kicked off the rim.
“Keenan stepped up and hit some big free throws and we got two defensive stops, and got the W,’’ said Taylor, who spent much of the night chasing through a mass of screens in an attempt to defend Carton.
Ewen said he thought the difference in the game was that Vesey and Hollingshed stepped up in the fourth quarter to give Wilmington and Taylor some help.
“Those guys hit some big shots down the stretch,’’ he said.
Bettendorf (4-7, 3-5 MAC) got only seven points from players other than Carton and Devynn Wakefield, who finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Bulldogs coach Curtis Clark figured his team largely lost the game with a lackluster first half in which 15 of its 25 shots came from behind the 3-point line.
“Defensively, we weren’t very good once again and offensively we didn’t play well at all,’’ Clark said. “We had plenty of opportunities for layups and post touches. Some of that was our guards not looking inside and some of it was our post guys not executing what they were asked to execute.’’
His team also committed 19 turnovers against a 2-3 zone defense.
“That’s very uncharacteristic of us,’’ Clark added. “We only average 10 turnovers a game so we shouldn’t have that many against that kind of defense.’’