McDowell Titans head coach Brian Franklin said his team made plenty of mistakes in its game against the R-S Central Hilltoppers Tuesday.
But one mistake the Titans didn’t make saved the day – they didn’t give up.
McDowell (3-0) trailed practically the entire game, but rallied from a six-point deficit with less than two minutes to play for a 79-75 win over the Hilltoppers at Titan Gym.
The Titans overcame 24 turnovers and an 11-point, second-half deficit by making huge plays down the stretch against the taller, longer Hilltoppers (2-2).
McDowell got monster games from a trio of starters.
Senior guard Dylan McRary scored a game-high 27 points, and junior wing Qualique Garner poured in 14 of his 26 in the fourth quarter. Sophomore post Trent Lewis scored 18 points, pulled 17 rebounds and blocked four shots.
“To give up 42 points in the first half and turn the ball over as many times as we did, we just played terrible,” said Franklin. “But that’s the kind of thing you expect from a young team against a really athletic, good team. In the second half, I thought we did a much better job defensively and we did a little bit better job rebounding.
“But the biggest factor was, our kids are just tough, and they never quit. They kept fighting and we were able to make a couple of plays down there at the end. Dylan and Q were huge for us. Trent Lewis, through his first three games as a sophomore, has been big time.”
R-S Central got 26 points from senior guard Jacob Knox and 21 from senior forward Elijah Carson. Both were instrumental in giving the Hilltoppers control of the game for most of the night. Carson scored 15 of his points before the break and Central led by as many as nine in the second quarter before settling for a 42-36 halftime lead.
But the Titans’ standouts made big plays when McDowell needed them most.
Lewis had just fouled out and the Titans trailed 73-67 before McRary nailed a 3-pointer off a Garner assist with 1:38 to play to trim the lead to 73-70.
On Central’s ensuing possession, Garner made a steal along the sideline and drove the length of the court, scoring on a layup and drawing a foul in the process. The Hilltoppers’ Tyion Wilkins (16 points) was hit with a technical foul after the play, giving Garner three opportunities at the line, albeit in a tense situation.
No worries. Garner’s first clutch foul shot tied the game, and his next two gave the Titans a 75-73 lead with 1:23 to go. After an exchange of possessions – each team misfired on 3-point shots – Garner was fouled again and swished two more free throws for a 77-73 advantage.
Delonte Williams briefly pulled Central within one possession on a driving layup, and the Hilltoppers promptly sent McRary to the stripe with 14 seconds to go. The senior made both shots to seal the deal.
“It was nice to see a young team that didn’t have a lot of experience make big plays at the end of a game,” said Franklin. “That was a huge win for us.”
McDowell shot 51 percent from the floor and went 7-of-16 from 3-point range. McRary (5 steals, 4 assists) and Garner (4 rebounds, 2 steals) combined to go 7-of-13 from downtown. The Titans out-rebounded Central 36-27 overall and 9-7 offensively, with Lewis pulling five offensive boards.
McDowell is on the road at Mitchell Friday.
R-S Central (75) Delonte Williams 4-11 1-2 9, Tyion Watkins 7-12 2-3 16, Trei Gray 0-2 0-0 0, Jacob Knox 7-10 9-10 26, Elijah Carson 8-20 0-0 21, Braxton Crocker 0-0 0-0 0, Logan Mills 0-0 0-0 0, Tyrese Miller 1-4 1-2 3, Aaron Cuthbertson 0-3 0-0 0. Totals: 27-62 13-17 75.
McDowell (79) Qualique Garner 9-14 5-5 26, Adam Randolph 1-2 0-1 2, Trent Lewis 7-9 4-7 18, Dylan McRary 8-17 7-10 27, J.C. Olivo 0-4 0-0 0, Dequan Boyce 2-4 2-3 6, Andruw Randolph 0-2 0-0 0, Richard Handy 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 27-53 18-26 79.
R-S Central 16 26 19 14 – 75
McDowell 15 21 18 25 – 79
Rebounds: RSC (27) MHS (36) Rebound leaders: RSC (Williams 7) McDowell (Lewis 17) 3-point goals: RSC (8-24) MHS (7-16) RSC (Watkins, Gray, Miller 0-2, Knox 3-6, Carson 5-11, Cuthbertson 0-1) MHS (Olivo 0-2, McRary 4-7, Garner 3-6, Boyce 0-1) McDowell assist leaders: (Olivo, McRary 4) McDowell steals leaders: (McRary 5) McDowell blocked shot leaders: (Lewis 4, McRary 1) Turnovers: RSC (15) MHS (24) Fouled out: RSC (Watkins 1:23—fourth) MHS (Ad. Randolph 3:18—fourth, Lewis 1:53—fourth)