The Red Devils began to take over the paint and the battle on the boards in the second quarter and never looked back on Wednesday, as they topped Daviess county 85-56 in the first round of the 9th District Tournament.
Owensboro came out of the gates looking to set the tone, going on an 8-0 for the first three minutes of the game. But down eight with 3:16 to go in the first quarter, Daviess County was able to create turnovers with their 2-3 zone and grab a number of offensive boards to cut it to a 16-15 Red Devils lead heading into the second quarter.
It was some fullcourt pressure of Owensboro’s own that helped swing momentum back their way in the second, as three straight turnovers led to a 6-0 run and a 26-17 lead with 5:48 to go in the first half. The defensive intensity began to wear down Daviess County as the quarter went on, with the Red Devils taking a 43-29 lead into halftime.
The second half was much of the same as well, with Owensboro controlling both ends of the floor and utilizing their depth with 11 different players scoring en route to the 85-56 win over the Panthers. Following the game Head Coach Rod Drake said that he was excited to see his team get back to form in what he thinks is the hardest game of the year every season.
“We’ve had a couple of good weeks in practice, it just hasn’t shown in the game,” Drake said. “It took everybody in the room tonight… We played a lot of guys tonight that deserved to play. They picked it up in practice. Our second group this week pushed our first group… We came ready to play tonight.”
Owensboro senior Kenyatta Carbon led all scorers with 22 points, while senior Kanye Johnson had 14, senior Ji Webb had 11 and senior Ethan Pendleton had 10. Pairing their balanced attack with a strong effort defensively, Drake said the Red Devils put together a true collective effort to come away with the win.
“Dayshawn Sanders came in and got a couple of steals and put some pressure on them,” Drake said. “Cayman came in and played well. I think it was our defensive intensity that kind of wore them down. We got back to playing like we were earlier in the year tonight, so that’s good to see at this time of the year.”
Owensboro got 10 points off of 14 Panthers turnovers, while grabbing 42 rebounds to Daviess County’s 19. The Panthers surrendered 27 second chance points as a result of their disadvantage inside, something that Head Coach Neil Hayden said made a huge difference starting in the second quarter.
“Related to our season, we’re down two centers,” Hayden said. “We’ve got a guard who’s playing his butt off in Decker Renfrow. He plays as hard as anybody in the Region, but we’re just giving up a lot of size… Their gameplan I feel like was get the ball into their big guys and they did.”
Daviess County was led by junior Gage Phelps with 18 points, while senior Jack Payne followed close behind with 16 points as their season came to a close with a 13-15 overall record. Payne is one of six seniors that are set to graduate in the spring and it’s a special group that Hayden and his staff are going to miss.
“I’ve known these guys since they were in elementary school and I’m sad to see them leave,” Hayden said. “They’re guys that care about this team and their school and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. They’re great guys.”
The Panthers will look ahead to improving during the off-season now, as Hayden said that they will look to use this loss as fuel going into the 2023-24 campaign. Meanwhile, Owensboro is set to see Owensboro Catholic for the third time this season—this time in the 9th District Championship at 7 p.m. on Friday.
The Red Devils failed to come out on top in either of the regular season matchups, with an 80-78 loss in January and a 68-48 loss in February. Drake said that they plan to approach the game the same as they had the first two times, looking to be more prepared to accomplish one of their goals this year—winning a district championship.
“We go at it the same,” Drake said. “The first time we had an 18-point lead we threw it all over the gym and missed free throws. Last time, I don’t even know if we showed up. We’ll be ready to play.”