HICKORY – Coming out to a slow start is never a good thing. Doing it on the road is pretty much a recipe for disaster.
The McDowell Titans could never overcome a sluggish beginning to the Northwestern 3A/4A Conference season as they were beaten by the Hickory Red Tornadoes 56-42 Wednesday night at David Craft Gymnasium in Hickory.
The league opener for both squads was decided essentially in the first three-plus minutes of play as Hickory shut out McDowell 13-0 in that span, forcing the Titans into five turnovers and challenging nearly early possession early on that McDowell had.
The Tornadoes were dominant on the glass as well, holding a 43-30 advantage on the night.
Sophomore guard Cody Young accounted for one basket during the opening stanza. Nkosi Abernathy added a put-back and Jaylen Harper scored twice in a row. Harper’s put-back on an offensive rebound gave Hickory a 13-0 lead with 4:42 left in the first.
If you take that initial surge away, the rest of the contest was very close as Hickory edged McDowell by only one point the rest of the night. Unfortunately the bad start cost was too much to overcome.
“To beat a good team on their home court, you can’t do that,” said Titans head coach Brian Franklin. “I thought our boys played hard after the first quarter but we came out and started the game the way we did. We’ve got to come out and have better starts; we are missing too many easy baskets. We also need to be tougher and that means rebounding and taking care of the basketball, not turning it over.”
Qualique Garner ended the initial drought, putting McDowell on the scoreboard with a 3-pointer with 4:30 left in the first, but the Red Tornadoes help firm control in the first half, leading by 13 points at the end of both the first and second quarters.
The Titans did put together their best basketball of the night in the third quarter and at one point late in the frame got the Hickory lead down to as low as five points. Garner had scores on two consecutive possessions, including a pair of made free throws with 2:15 left in the third to make it 41-36.
That would be closest McDowell would get the rest of the night.
The Tornadoes accounted for six of the last seven points scored in the third to bounce their lead back up to nine points at 47-38. And then, in a low-scoring fourth, Hickory scored seven consecutive points.
Davis Amos accounted for the first five points and then Hammouri Joyner’s layup with 2:27 left capped it off, putting the Tornadoes back up by 16 before both squads emptied their benches.
“I really liked that our boys didn’t quit, but again, we have got to find a way to give that kind of effort at the start and to do it for a full 32 minutes,” said Franklin. “We can be a good team when we learn to do that.”
Garner was the lone Titan in double figures with 20 points and eight rebounds. Dylan McRary tallied seven points and five rebounds.
Adam Randolph and Trent Lewis (5 rebounds) had four points each. Dequan Boyce finished with three points and Trenton Gragg, along with Mack Branch, scored two points each.
McDowell returns home tonight (Friday) to battle St. Stephens.