Sophomores lead the way in Chieftains’ victoryPublished 9:02am Saturday, December 14, 2013
The kids will be all right.
At the tip-off of Friday night’s season opener, Dowagiac did not have a single player dressed that had played a meaningful minute of varsity basketball.
And in the first 16 minutes it looked like it.
But at halftime, Dowagiac coach Danum Hunt settled down his youngsters who responded with an inspiring second half effort in pulling out a thrilling 60-55 win over Coloma.
Dowagiac started three juniors and a pair of sophomores. Two of those sophomores — Brandon Winchester-Jones and Harry Reed — teamed up with classmate Leroy Lewis to combine for 41 of the Chieftains’ 60 points.
Hunt said their play didn’t surprise him because he has watched this group grow up together.
“These sophomores are a special group,” He said. “They hang together in the halls every day. They truly are a family. I think in the years to come you are going to see great basketball out of those guys.”
A couple of adjustments at halftime also paid off for the Chieftains in the second half.
“I noticed that if you didn’t pressure their guards, you allowed them to quarterback the game,” Hunt said. “So we just picked up the pressure on their guards. We slowed down the pace, that helped our execution and we began to make some buckets.
That the Chieftains did.
After scoring just 17 points in the opening 16 minutes of the contest, Dowagiac poured in 43 points in the second half, including 24 in the final quarter when it pulled out the victory.
The Chieftains (1-0, 1-0 West) didn’t take its first lead of the game until the 4:24 mark of the fourth quarter when Daquan Brooks’ short jumper made it 48-47.
Coloma briefly reclaimed the lead, but Dowagiac outscored the Comets 12-8 over the final four minutes of the contest.
Winchester-Jones led Dowagiac with 21 points, while Brooks and Leroy Lewis both finished with 12 points.
Austin Rushing had a game-high 26 points to lead the Comets, who drop to 0-2 on the season and 0-1 in the West Division.
The Chieftains did not shoot the ball well in its opener (22-of-64) compared to Coloma (21-of-39) and was outrebounded by the taller Comets 40-33.
But Dowagiac did force 31 turnovers while committing just 15.
“We know because we are small, we have to create extra possessions,” Hunt said. “We do that by forcing the other team to turn it over. We did that tonight. The guys performed perfectly in the second half. Brandon did an excellent job in spearheading that defense.”
Hunt is hoping to have his three returning players back — Davion Highsmith, Kyle Solloway and Bryce Dodd — in the near future, perhaps as quickly as Tuesday when the Chieftains host Vicksburg.
Nick Caldwell 2 1-2 5, Austin Rushing 9 7-8 26, Jason Walter 6 2-4 14, Johnny Cole 4 2-4 10, Chase Mosley 0 0-2 0. TOTALS 21 12-20 55
Daquan Brooks 5 0-0 12, Matt Smith 1 0-1 3, Brandon Winchester-Jones 7 4-6 21, Keontae Blackamore 3 2-2 8, Harry Reed 1 0-0 2, Leroy Lewis 4 4-4 12, Tevin Fowlkes 1 0-0 2. TOTALS 22 10-16 60
Coloma 10 28 39 55
Dowagiac 5 17 36 60
3-pointers: Dowagiac 6 (Brooks 2, Winchester-Jones 3, Smith 1), Coloma 1 (Rushing 1). Total fouls (fouled out): Dowagiac 19, Coloma 18 (Caldwell). Varsity records: Coloma 0-2, 0-1 West; Dowagiac 1-0, 1-0 West