The Red Devils picked up steam late in the second quarter and carried that momentum in the second half, as a balanced attack on both ends of the floor led them to a 72-54 road win over Daviess County on Friday.
It was a slow start to open up the night, as both teams sat tied at 3-3 with 4:45 left in the first quarter. However, after trading buckets back and forth, senior Jack Payne came off the bench and delivered a 6-0 run himself to help the Panthers take a 13-7 lead with 1:16 to go in the quarter.
Owensboro responded swiftly with some key buckets late, but it was a turnover and a mid-range jumper from Carbon early in the second that gave them a 16-15 lead. This sparked an 11-0 run for the Red Devils, as Daviess County was held scoreless for the first five minutes of the second and trailed 25-15.
Junior Gage Phelps knocked down 1-2 at the line to break the scoreless streak for the Panthers, but they went on to score only five points in the quarter and trailed 32-20 at halftime. Owensboro kept its foot on the gas coming out of the locker room as well, with seven different players scoring in the quarter to help them build a 52-35 lead following the third.
Daviess County had its strongest quarter of the night in the fourth with 19 points, but senior Ji Webb and junior AP Mitchell caught fire late as well. Mitchell had 10 and Webb had eight in the quarter, as they combined for 18 of Owensboro’s 20 to close the door on a 72-54 win on the road.
Head Coach Rod Drake wasn’t happy with how they opened up the game, but was glad to see his team pick up the pace on both ends of the floor to come away with the district win.
“I thought we started out sluggish and then we picked it up at the end of the first half,” Drake said. “We came back in the second half and played with that same intensity. Playing with different personnel the last couple of weeks, I thought we played ok. Kenyatta didn’t play Tuesday because he was sick and Ethan has been sick this week, so I thought we played well tonight.”
Webb finished with a team-leading 18 points in his first district game as a Red Devil, while Mitchell, Carbon and senior Ethan Pendleton all had 10 points each. Webb and Mitchell are transfers to the team that have gotten back to action in the past month and while Drake was pleased with their efforts, he thinks they have even more room to grow in utilizing their newfound size and length.
“We can go from being a small middle school team, to where we look like a small college team out there,” Drake said. “It’s good to have, but we still have a lot of work to do in that area.”
Drake thinks that Owensboro’s depth and ability to push the tempo consistently helped them in the win, making it hard for Daviess County to set up their 2-3 zone that was effective early.
“I think we kind of wore them out,” Drake said. “When we started pushing the ball offensively, we didn’t give them any time to set it up. We moved the ball around and of course we hit some shots from outside tonight and that helps a lot. That opened it up and then they had to pick their poison.”
Now sitting at 12-7 and 3-1 in district play, Drake wants to see his team shore up those early errors in order to help them close out the regular season strong—starting with a road matchup against Hopkinsville at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.
“We gotta come out better defensively and get out to better starts,” Drake said. “Our whole game is if we come out ready to play we have no problems, but if we come out with lulls and that deer in the headlight look [we can struggle]. Out of the game has to be our thing… We just have to get better overall.”
On the other hand Daviess County falls to 9-11 overall and 1-3 in district play, as 21 turnovers and a disadvantage inside late came back to bite them. Phelps was the only player to finish in double figures with 13 for the Panthers, as the team struggled from beyond the arc with a 1-12 clip.
Daviess County will look to turn things around in front of the home crowd on Saturday, taking on Webster County at 4:30 p.m.