LENOIR – Anything that could go wrong on the basketball court did for the McDowell Titans in the early stages of Tuesday night’s Northwestern Conference battle at West Caldwell High School.
McDowell dug itself a cavernous, first-half deficit that it could not escape from in a 75-59 loss to the Warriors. The road loss was a 180-degree turnaround for both teams: The Titans throttled West Caldwell 82-52 at Titan Gym Jan. 18, making the 46-point turnaround all the more astounding.
The Warriors jumped out from the opening tip and controlled the game on both ends. West (4-17 overall, 4-9 NWC) came out blazing from the perimeter, making 11 of their 13 3-pointers in the first half.
Jarvis Ellerby led all scorers with 25 points, including six 3s in the first half. Anthony Isbell added 19 points and Michael Marley scored 11 to help lead West Caldwell.
The 3s helped coach Billy Anderson’s team set up their full-court press and it created havoc for McDowell (10-13, 4-9) as the Titans committed 10 first-quarter turnovers, several of them leading to some easy transition looks for the Warriors.
West scored the first seven points of the game and kept going from there, expanding the lead to 18-4 halfway through the opening stanza. And unfortunately it didn’t get much better afterwards.
West Caldwell was up 27-7 at the end of the first and the advantage reached its zenith at the 5:48 mark in the second when Isbell made a deep 3-pointer from the wing to put the Warriors ahead 41-12.
The Titans finally stopped the bleeding when Dylan McRary responded on the other end making a 3-pointer off a J.C. Olivo pass a matter of seconds later, but it was already too little, too late for McDowell.
The Titans scored eight in a row and got within 49-32 at the half.
Unfortunately, the second half was close to even as McDowell could not make any significant dent into the margin.
McRary nailed a triple 25 seconds into the second half to get McDowell within 14 points (49-35), a margin that the Titans would reach again in the fourth quarter when it was 68-54 on a conventional three-point play by Trent Lewis with less than three minutes left in the game.
However, in between, McDowell could not string together enough stops on the defensive end to get any momentum in the second half.
Lewis (5 rebounds, 2 steals) finished with 19 points and McRary (5 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 assists) had 17 points. Qualique Garner (7 rebounds) had eight points. Dequan Boyce (3 steals) chipped in five points. Olivo (7 assists) scored four points.
Trenton Gragg (3 points), Johnathan Ramirez (2) and Seth Harrison (1) also scored in the contest.
With the loss, McDowell slides into a tie for sixth place with West Caldwell in the league standings. The Titans conclude the regular season at home Friday against conference champs Freedom. McDowell has already clinched its 32nd State 4A Playoff berth in the last 34 years.