TAYLORSVILLE – McDowell Titans basketball coach Brian Franklin and his staff knew that the first two games of the regular season would be a stern test as to just how prepared his team is.

So far, the results have to be pleasing.

McDowell, with a focused second-half effort, put the Alexander Central Cougars safely away in the den by a 71-54 margin Tuesday.

For a little more than three quarters, the game had the makings of a classic defensive slugfest that this series has been known for in recent years.

The Titans (2-0) led wire-to-wire, but most of the night it was within single digits. Alexander Central trimmed the margin to as low as two points with approximately three minutes to go in the game.

However, an explosive 17-2 McDowell run over the last 2:50 made things a lot easier in the end.

 “This is a huge win to come down here to Alexander Central,” said Franklin. “What a great start we have to win at R-S and then to come here where they make it very tough to win, that’s huge for us and it says a lot about the kids. I was really happy with the effort all night.”

That effort was no more obvious than in the last three minutes.

With the Titans up 54-52, Divese Carson (20 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist) drained a 3-pointer from the left wing off a Cannon Lamb kick-out from the post to push the McDowell lead back to five points.

Then, after the Titans forced Alexander Central into a bad shot, guard Antoine Lindsey snagged a rebound, got in transition and drove toward the basket before finding Carson open on the wing for another 3-pointer with 2:16 left, pushing the lead back to eight.

Carson finished his own personal 8-0 spurt with two technical foul shots 10 seconds later to give McDowell a 62-52 lead and effectively put the game away.

Skyler McKinney (6-of-13 FGs, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks) led the Titans with 22 points on the night, joining Carson in double figures. The wing combo both made some big shots, especially in the second half.

“Skyler and Divese were fantastic tonight,” said Franklin. “I thought early on we settled for too many jump shots against Alexander Central’s zone, which is something they are really good at forcing you to do. I thought in the second half we did a better job driving to the basket, which opened other things up.”

Forwards Cannon Lamb (8 rebounds, 6 assists) and Tanner Dillingham (5 rebounds) added seven points each. Lindsey (4 assists, 4 rebounds) scored six points off the bench. Travis Corpening had four points, Kevin Silver scored three points and Anferni Hausley chipped in two.

Justin Dula tallied 18 points and six rebounds to lead the Cougars, who shot 40 percent from the field but were only 2-of-18 from 3-point land. Noah Presnell added 10 points.

McDowell will take the floor in its home opener tonight against R-S Central.