With talented sophomore post Trent Lewis on the bench because of early foul trouble, the McDowell Titans’ offensive machinery was broken.
But everything was OK – the Titans called a Handyman.
Junior post Richard Handy came off the bench for career-highs of 18 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots, and helped spark the Titans’ too-close-for-comfort, 86-84 victory over the Mitchell Mountaineers in non-conference play Tuesday night.
Handy had some help, of course. Senior guard Dylan McRary poured in 25 points and dished out 10 assists for a double-double, and junior wing Qualique Garner went for 25 points and pulled six boards.
But Titans head coach Brian Franklin said Handy’s play was the key ingredient in avenging a rare loss to Mitchell earlier in the season.
“I thought Dylan and Q did their usual thing; they had great nights, and carried us offensively,” said Franklin. “But I thought the difference in the game was Richard Handy. He came in and played outstanding.
“He’s been playing more lately and really helping us. We’re looking for somebody who can rebound the ball, and he fits the bill – a big, tough kid who is smart and strong and knows how to play. And what we’re starting to find out is, he can do a little bit more than just rebound.”
Lewis (7 points, 3 blocks) picked up his second foul with 5:22 to go in the first quarter, and was hit with No. 3 with 4:49 to go before the half.
The 6-foot-3 Handy responded by scoring 12 first-half points, making all four of his shots from the floor. Garner also tallied 12 in the opening half, and McRary added 11.
It all added up to a 44-40 halftime lead which the Titans (1-2 Northwestern 3A/4A Conference, 7-6 overall) never again relinquished.
But Mitchell (4-9) never quit, trimming a seemingly safe 10-point McDowell lead down to just one in the game’s final 1:15.
The Titans led 80-70 on McRary’s free throws with 1:33 to go, but the Mountaineers used the 3-ball and some clock management, and clawed to within 84-81 on a steal and triple by Zeus Ponder with 20 seconds to go.
Mitchell quickly fouled McRary, who made one of two on the other end to make it 85-81 with 16 seconds left. The Mountaineers’ Jacob Ward answered with another 3-pointer, this one with just six seconds remaining, to make it 85-84.
Titans point guard J.C. Olivo (7 points, 5 assists) then made one of two from the stripe with 2.5 seconds left, but McDowell wasn’t safe until Ponder’s half-court heave at the buzzer hit the backboard and bounced away.
It was the second cliff-hanger in as many nights for the Titans, who clipped Watauga 82-79 Wednesday.
“I was really pleased with our effort, especially coming back after last night, which was a really tough game,” said Franklin. “I thought our energy level was good. I’m proud of them. There is so much room for improvement, but the kids found a way to win. They’re getting better and they’re a great group of kids.”
The Titans led by as many as seven and trailed by as many as five in the first half before Garner’s 3-pointer off a Dequan Boyce assist gave them the lead for good at 42-39 with 48 seconds to go in the half.
McDowell led 61-56 after three, and owned a 72-60 advantage on Handy’s basket off an Andruw Randolph assist with 4:15 to play. But the Titans could never deliver the knockout blow, hence the dramatic finish.
The Titans shot a blistering 60 percent from the field, with Handy (7-8) and McRary (9-13) combining to shoot 16-of-21. Olivo (2-5), McRary (3-6) and Garner (4-9) combined to go a solid 9-of-20 from beyond the arc.
Meanwhile, Mitchell shot 52 percent. Tyler McKinney led the Mountaineers with 24 points. Caius Peterson added 19 and pulled 10 rebounds; Ward hit four treys and scored 13; and Mitchell McMahan chipped in 10.
Each team pulled 24 rebounds, and turnovers were close as well – 12 for the Titans and 11 for Mitchell. But McDowell went 19-of-29 from the line, compared to 9-of-13 for the Mountaineers. The discrepancy was understandable – 18 of the Titans’ attempts came in the fourth quarter when Mitchell was putting McDowell on the line strategically.
The Titans are on the road tonight at Alexander Central as league play resumes (6 p.m. varsity girls start in the main gym).
Mitchell (84) Caius Peterson 9-14 1-2 19, Tyler McKinney 9-16 3-4 24, Noah Pitman 2-4 1-2 5, Caleb Pritchard 2-2 0-0 4, Zeus Ponder 3-10 2-2 9, Jess Ledford 0-1 0-0 0, Jeremy Sparks 0-1 0-0 0, Mitchell McMahan 4-7 1-1 10, Hunter Johnson 0-1 0-0 0, Jacob Ward 4-8 1-2 13. Totals: 33-64 9-13 84.
McDowell (86) Qualique Garner 6-13 9-11 25, Adam Randolph 0-0 0-0 0, Trent Lewis 3-3 1-2 7, Dylan McRary 9-13 4-7 25, J.C. Olivo 2-7 1-2 7, Dequan Boyce 2-4 0-0 4, Richard Handy 7-8 4-6 18, Andruw Randolph 0-0 0-1 0, Seth Harrison 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 29-48 19-29 86.
Mitchell 19 21 16 28 – 84
McDowell 23 21 17 25 – 86
Rebounds: Mitchell (24) McDowell (24) Rebound leaders: Mitchell (Peterson 10) McDowell (Handy 9) 3-point goals: Mitchell (9-28) McDowell (9-20) Mitchell (Peterson, Ledford, Sparks, Pitman 0-1, McKinney 3-6, Ponder 1-7, McMahan 1-4, Ward 4-7) McDowell (Olivo 2-5, McRary 3-6, Garner 4-9) McDowell assist leaders: (McRary 10) McDowell steals leaders: (McRary, An. Randolph 2) McDowell blocked shot leaders: (Handy, Lewis 3) Turnovers: Mitchell (11) McDowell (12) Fouled out: Mitchell (McMahan 2:23—fourth, McKinney :25—fourth)