CONNELLY SPRINGS – Nothing is ever easy when playing on the road. The McDowell Titans are learning that on the fly here in the first month of the basketball season.
The Titans, with the help of four players in double figures, grinded its way to a 76-66 win on Thursday night at East Burke.
The win gives McDowell (4-1) the season sweep over a 1-3 East Burke squad, and while on paper the win might not seem very significant, it was in reality a good sign for the young Titans in regards to their ability to perform away from their home court, where nothing is a given.
Last week McDowell suffered a 66-59 loss at Mitchell and with the recent winter storm delaying normal basketball activities for a few days it put the team right back in a position where they resumed play against East Burke on their home floor.
The end result was a much closer game that included 10 lead changes. In the end it was the Titans and their intensity on both ends of the floor that was the difference maker.
“One of the biggest things you have to teach with a young, inexperienced group is just how tough it is going on the road,” said McDowell head coach Brian Franklin. “It was good to get this win after what happened last Friday. I thought our intensity was a lot better tonight and even though I don’t think we necessarily played well, the kids played hard and showed some fight in them.”
Four of McDowell’s starting five placed in double figures with Dylan McRary posting a team-high 24 points to go with seven assists and four rebounds. The senior guard had 13 of those points in the first half and then, in the fourth, McRary hit back-to-back 3s in a critical juncture of the game.
With McDowell ahead by just three points in the fourth quarter, McRary connected with 3:32 from the right wing off a J.C. Olivo assist to extend the Titans lead to 66-60. Then, after a miss on East Burke’s end, McRary found an open spot on the left side and drained another 3- pointer with 2:52 left in the game to push the lead to nine points.
“Those were some huge shots Dylan made at a crucial spot to give us a little separation down the stretch,” said Franklin.
With the score tied at 60, McDowell outscored East Burke in the last four minutes of play 16-6 for the decisive margin. Adam Randolph made a pair of free throws at exactly the four-minute mark followed by a made free throw from Trent Lewis. All of that occurred just before the two made 3s by McRary.
“Our intensity, especially on the defensive end, picked up in that four minutes,” added Franklin. “East Burke had been making a lot of shots during the game and then we made some stops, then combined with what we executed offensively was a turning point.”
Joining McRary in double figures was Qualique Garner (8 rebounds) with 19 points, Olivo (4 steals, 4 rebounds, 3 assists) with 13 points and Trent Lewis (4 rebounds) with 12 points.
Adam Randolph and Trenton Gragg finished with four points each.
Logan Shuford had 17 points to lead the Cavaliers with Trey Ward adding 11 points.
McDowell will be on the road Tuesday at R-S Central (5 p.m. jayvee boys start, no jayvee girls).