Highsmith’s 42 lifts Chieftains to winPublished 2:55pm Sunday, December 11, 2011
Dowagiac has a tough act to follow as the Chieftain boys’ basketball team reached the Class B state semifinals last season.
The much-awaited 2011-12 season opener finally came Friday night and Dowagiac did not disappoint.
Despite having just one start returning from that squad, the Chieftains rolled to a 72-60 win over Wolverine Conference foe Allegan.
Junior point guard Dontel Highsmith, the lone returning starter, poured in a career-high 42 points in leading Dowagiac to a victory in its season opener. Highsmith had 15 points in the opening quarter and netted 20 of the Chieftains’ 26 points in the fourth quarter.
“I didn’t realize that he (Highsmith) had 42 points, but he is a scorer. He was huge tonight. He is our leader, and I don’t expect anything less from him,” Dowagiac coach Danum Hunt said.
The Chieftains (1-0, 1-0 Wolverine) stormed out of the gate scoring the first five points, but the Tigers (0-2, 0-1 Wolverine) scored the next seven to take the lead before Highsmith began to take over.
The Chieftains held a 17-11 advantage after the first period, with Highsmith scoring the last 15 points for Dowagiac after Brendon Murray got things started.
The second quarter saw the Chieftains perimeter game start to take shape as Davion Highsmith connected on three long range bombs, while Tyler Clark landed one of his own as Dowagiac built its lead to 35-22 at the break.
In the second half, the Chieftains came out a little flat and let the Tigers claw themselves back into the game as Dowagiac saw its lead dissipate from 17 points down to just nine after three quarters.
The bright spot for the Chieftains in the third quarter was the play of center Eric Charles. Charles had gotten two quick fouls in the first half and sat most of the half. In the third quarter he scored six of his eight points and pulled down several of his team-high 12 rebounds.
“Eric has been working really hard. He put in a lot of work over the summer and it was evident tonight that he is progressively getting better,” Hunt said. “We just need to keep him out of foul trouble and keep him in the game and we’ll be in good shape.”
Clinging to just a nine-point lead, 46-37, heading into the final stanza, Dontel Highsmith once again took over the game. Highsmith scored 20 points in the final period, including 10 from the charity stripe. Although he led all scorers on the night, his game was far from perfect as he connected on just 12-of-22 from the line. Fortunately for the Dowagiac faithful, he managed to connect on his last eight to keep the lead at 10 for most of the final period.
“He (Dontel) seemed to be thinking a little too much as he was going to the line trying to collect his shot, so I told him to start singing the song he was singing before the game to get his mind off it to help him to get more comfortable and to just shoot like he always shoots and do what he does every day,” Hunt said.
Dontel Highsmith added eight rebounds and six steals to go with his 42 points, while Murray grabbed eight rebounds and had seven steals to go with his two points.
For the Tigers, Shaquille Hill led the way with 21 points, while Gary Jones contributed 11.
The Chieftains will next play Plainwell on Tuesday night.