It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, but then again, victories that snap five-game losing streaks are categorically beautiful.
The shorthanded McDowell Titans took command with a big run late in the first half and beat the South Caldwell Spartans 79-59 at Titan Gym Friday.
The Titans (4-8 Northwestern 3A/4A Conference, 10-12 overall) got at least 16 points from four different players and a career night from sophomore guard Dequan Boyce in holding off the Spartans (1-11, 1-19).
Boyce, starting in place of Qualique Garner (flu), put up a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds, both career highs. He also handed out three assists and had two steals.
Point guard J.C. Olivo (5 rebounds, 4 assists) led the way with 19 points, while Boyce and Dylan McRary poured in 18 apiece and Trent Lewis added 16. Olivo and McRary combined to shoot 7-of-13 from 3-point range.
All were instrumental in a 16-1 run that closed the first half and turned a 30-24 deficit into a 40-31 lead at the break. But the rally may have never started without a four-point play from Olivo that sparked the whole thing.
“Early on, they (South) made a few shots from the perimeter and we didn’t rebound the ball,” said Titans head coach Brian Franklin. “They went up six there, and what we did was started jamming it and keeping it out of the middle. No. 40 (Justin Eggers) was hurting us some catching it in the middle.
“Then, J.C. makes a huge shot and gets fouled, and off of that play, it seemed like our defensive intensity stepped up and we finished the half on a 16-1 run, which was huge for us.”
With the Titans trailing 30-24, Olivo buried a 3-pointer off an assist from post player Richard Handy. Olivo was knocked to the ground on the shot, and the senior made his free throw to trim the margin to 30-28 with 4:33 to go in the half.
It was off to the races from there.
Lewis made a follow shot to tie it, and Boyce’s driving layup off a Lewis assist at the 3:35 mark gave McDowell the lead for good at 32-30.
By the time Lewis scored in the paint off a McRary assist with 14 seconds left in the half, McDowell owned a 40-31 lead. Lewis and Olivo scored six each in the run and Boyce added four.
The Spartans got as close as 44-40 early in the third quarter. But Lewis made a basket in the paint off an assist from Trenton Gragg, drew a foul, and buried the free throw to make it 47-40, and South didn’t seriously threaten the rest of the way.
McDowell led 55-45 after three, and the lead reached 20 when reserve Mack Branch buried a triple off an assist by Johnathan Ramirez with 13 seconds to play.
“I thought in the second half we did some things better offensively,” said Franklin. “We did a better job of looking at Trent in the post. Not having Q (Garner), you worry about having that, and Dequan has to step into a different role, and I thought he played really well. You can see his progression over the year and how much potential he’s got.
“J.C. has played two great games in a row, and I’m not sure he came out of the game. And the Dylan just being Dylan and making the kind of plays we’ve gotten used to him making. It was good after the stretch we’ve had the last couple of weeks to get a win here on our home court.”
South put four players in double figures as well. Spencer Piercy tossed in 12 and Colby Collins (7 rebounds) added 11. Eggers (10 rebounds) and Austin Raynor (7 rebounds) scored 10 each.
The Titans round out the regular season this week. McDowell is on the road at West Caldwell Tuesday and hosts Freedom Friday in the finale. The Titans will almost certainly qualify for the State 4A Playoffs as the split conference’s top 4A seed, but they will likely be seeded as an at-large team and be on the road in the first round.
Note: Franklin said the Titans may have gotten some inspiration for the remainder of the season from a seemingly unlikely source. Chilean exchange student Ignacio Molina, who has been practicing and traveling with the despite not being an official team member, addressed the squad after the game.
“He talked about how much he enjoyed being with us and how much fun it was, and how much he loved being around the guys,” said Franklin. “That was fun having him there and hearing him say that. Sometimes you get caught up in just the wins and losses so much it’s hard to see there is more to it.”
South Caldwell (59) Spencer Piercy 5-10 2-4 12, Colby Collins 4-14 0-0 11, Austin Raynor 4-10 1-2 10, Avery Raynor 2-5 0-0 5, Justin Eggers 4-9 2-4 10, Cameron Hadschin 0-2 2-2 2, Isaiah Kirby 3-8 0-0 6, Jack Seagle 1-1 0-0 3, Steven Reid 0-2 0-1 0, Corey Kincaid 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 23-62 7-13 59.
McDowell (79) Dequan Boyce 6-13 6-10 18, Adam Randolph 0-0 0-1 0, Trent Lewis 7-14 2-3 16, Dylan McRary 5-11 5-8 18, J.C. Olivo 7-13 1-1 19, Richard Handy 1-3 1-2 3, Andruw Randolph 0-1 0-0 0, Trenton Gragg 1-3 0-0 2, Seth Harrison 0-0 0-0 0, Tyler Rector 0-1 0-0 0, Johnathan Ramirez 0-1 0-0 0, Jalen Robbins 0-2 0-0 0, Mack Branch 1-1 0-0 3, Dylan Aldridge 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 28-63 15-25 79.
South Caldwell 21 10 14 14 – 59
McDowell 19 21 15 24 – 79
Rebounds: SC (39) MHS (35) Rebound leaders: SC (Eggers 10) MHS (Boyce 10) 3-point goals: SC (6-24) MHS (8-17) SC (Collins 3-12, Au. Maynor 1-2, Av. Raynor 1-3, Eggers, Hadschin, Kincaid 0-1, Kirby 0-3, Seagle 1-1) MHS (Olivo 4-8, McRary 3-5, Gragg 0-2, Robbins 0-1, Branch 1-1) MHS assist leaders: (Olivo 4) MHS steals leaders: (McRary, Randolph, Boyce 2) MHS blocked shot leaders: (Olivo, Lewis 1) Turnovers: SC (17) MHS (12)