In the wake of Friday's 48-point setback to Western Big 6 Conference boys' basketball leader Rock Island, Saturday's nonconference tilt with Davenport Central had the makings of another long night for United Township.|
But after the hosting Blue Devils blasted out of the gate by scoring the game's first 10 points, the Panthers dug in and responded. Closing the gap to two points by halftime, UT kept on battling and took its one and only lead of the game with 3:06 left in the third quarter on a Deveric Rogers bucket.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, Central countered with a solid finish to match its hot start as the Imps held on for a 50-46 victory on their home court at George Marshall Gymnasium, their first win of the season after an 0-3 start.
"This was exactly what we're dealing with right now,'' said UT coach Marc Polite, whose club slips to 1-8. "We're getting great effort, the effort from our guys has been consistent, but we're just lacking in a lot of areas right now. We were in position (Saturday) where we could've taken control of this game, but we just couldn't close the door.''
After Central's Tyler Hoeksema (14 points) buried two 3-pointers in the game's first minute to spark the Blue Devils' opening 10-0 run, UT cut the deficit to 10-5 by period's end. With junior forward Rogers scoring 10 of his team-high 13 points in the second quarter, the Panthers kept nipping at the Imps' heels as a Rogers trey with 41 seconds left in the half cut the hosts' lead to 29-27.
"We've talked a lot about our starts, and we'd been starting off games fairly decently,'' said Polite. "Tonight, (Hoeksema) shook free and got some early 3s, which had us on the ropes. We just had to settle down, and we did a nice job of settling down after that.''
In fact, United Township could have led at intermission if not for Central's prowess on the boards. The Blue Devils outrebounded UT 20-8 in the first half and 34-22 for the game, with Tim Rummels' game-high 10 boards augmented by seven from Javon Matthews and five apiece from Jared Harris and Jacob Light (11 points).
"They did a good job of getting to the offensive glass, and had a lot of opportunities where they were getting their hands on the ball,'' said Polite. "You give a team two or three shots, and they're bound to make one of them.''
"We did a much better job rebounding and getting loose balls in the first half,'' said Central coach Craig Wurdinger. "But in the second quarter, UT did a better job of beating us to the boards and loose balls, and that got them back in the game.''
With Raymond Terronez adding 12 points and five rebounds and Javen Goodwin 10 points and five boards, the Panthers clawed back to take their first lead, only to see Central regain the edge at 37-35 on a Light bucket late in the third period. That run grew to 7-0 to put the Devils up 40-35, and although UT got to within two twice in the fourth, it could never retake the lead.
"The momentum shifted back to us in the fourth,'' said Wurdinger, "but UT fought and scratched. Marc does a great job coaching them up over there.''
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