Trevor Gordon, a 6-foot-3 senior on Derby’s boys basketball team, has heard it from his friends and teammates all season.
When are you going to throw one down in a game?
Gordon finally gave them an answer in the first half of Derby’s 60-43 victory over Topeka in a Class 6A sub-state semifinal game on Wednesday. His slam dunk energized the Panthers (17-4) as they overwhelmed Topeka (9-12) in the first half.
Derby will host Lawrence Free State, which defeated Wichita Southeast 73-71, on Friday in a sub-state championship game.
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“Everybody wanted me to dunk, so I had to get one,” Gordon said. “I knew once I got past the last defender, I was going to dunk it. That was great. It was pretty wild.”
The Derby student section and bench had been longing for a dunk all season — Gordon’s dunk was the first in 21 games. So the gymnasium was at its loudest after Gordon took an outlet pass after a steal and threw down a left-handed dunk in transition.
“If you observe our team, we’re not exactly the tallest team you’ll see in the state,” Derby coach Brett Flory said. “So it’s kind of a big deal when somebody gets one down for us.”
Gordon’s dunk was part of a dominant 10-minute stretch by Derby after the game’s first five minutes produced a 5-5 tie.
But Derby ended the final two minutes of the first quarter on a 9-2 run, then outscored Topeka 19-9 in the second quarter. That 17-point difference was enough to allow Derby to play the entire second half without any drama.
“We were focused on coming out fast and we wanted to get out early on them,” senior Nyjee Wright said. “We couldn’t afford another slow start, so our whole focus this game was starting fast.”
Instead of the manic defense that Derby typically employs, Flory instructed his team to pack it in on defense and play off Topeka’s quick guards. The result was Topeka missing a lot of outside shots and Derby scoring a lot in transition.
Freshman Grant Adler joined Derby’s big three of Wright (14), Josh Clavin (13), and Gordon (13) in double-figures with 13 points and provided several momentum-building plays in the first half, such as his three-point play at the end of the half on a putback.
“We told him to be in attack mode coming out,” Flory said. “The last few games he’s been a little passive and maybe he hit that freshman wall, but tonight he came out aggressive and was ready to go and that really helped us.”
Derby would extend its lead to as many as 22 points in the third quarter, while Topeka never generated a substantial run to mount a comeback.
J’Shaliek Hendricks and Reece White each scored 12 points to lead Topeka.
TOPEKA: J. Hendricks 12, R. White 12, M. Thomas 10, N. Scott 5, J. Wilson 2, D. Allen 2.
DERBY: N. Wright 14, G. Adler 13, J. Clavin 13, T. Gordon 12, D. Dawdy 3, A. Brown 2, B. Bell 2, J. Taylor 1.