Eisenhower wanted to slow down the pace of play. Derby wanted to push the ball. For three quarters Tuesday, the two game plans clashed into an exhausting stalemate.
But Derby grabbed control of the game with a dominant fourth quarter and ran away with a 65-51 boys basketball win. All tied at 44 through three quarters, the Panthers spent the majority of the fourth on a 15-0 run. Eisenhower had no answer.
“They got tired and we didn’t,” senior guard James Conley said. “That’s what we wanted to see. It just took time to get there.”
Conley and senior forward DeQuan Love capped the game-winning run with back-to-back fast-break dunks – two plays that represented an entire fourth quarter of Panthers sneaking behind the Eisenhower defense for easy buckets.
The Tigers lost their shooting touch during the run, shooting 24 percent (6 for 25) in the second half. They failed to make a field goal in the fourth quarter.
“For three quarters we hung with one of the better teams in 6A,” Eisenhower coach Steve Blue said. “So I like our chances moving forward. There are still a lot of positives to get out of this.”
The Tigers’ intent to slow the pace was evident early. The teams combined for just seven made baskets in the first quarter, which produced two ties, four lead changes and a 6-6 score heading to the second quarter.
The game saw 10 ties and 13 lead changes through three quarters. Derby briefly pulled away in the third for a 42-34 lead, but Eisenhower responded with a 10-2 run to send the game to the fourth quarter tied at 44.
Conley scored 9 of his game-high 21 points in the final seven minutes, and Derby led the rest of the way. Love came off the bench to add 10 points, all in the second half. The defensive effort of the 6-foot-6 senior was also key in the times Derby was forced to slip into a half-court set against Eisenhower’s pair of 6-foot-7 starters, Matt Pile and Brent Smith.
“He’s a big addition to our team,” Derby coach Brett Flory said of Love. “It’s been a process bringing him along with a new team and a new offense, but he and (starting forward) Trevor Hall complete our team.”
Pile scored 18 but was held scoreless in the game-deciding fourth quarter. The Tigers went 7 for 12 from the free-throw line but 0 for 12 from the field.
“We couldn’t make our shots, and when we stop making shots our heads start to drop a little bit,” Blue said. “We’ve got to find a way through that.”
Though the win proved Derby’s capability of standing its ground in a half-court set, Flory said the Panthers’ preference remains with pushing the ball.
We’re not the biggest in the world,” he said. “But we’re good in transition, and that starts with rebounding the ball. That’s what we had to do tonight.”
Eisenhower — B. Strunk 5, Vincent 4, Taliaferro 12, Brown 3, Henning 1, Smith 6, Pile 18, Radford 2.
Derby — Nicholson 12, Wright 2, Steadman 13, Mark 4, Conley 21, Love 10, Packard 1, Hall 2.