Varsity Basketball

Second half propels Aces past Derby

East held a seven-point lead over Derby heading into the second half of its Class 6A sub-state semifinal Wednesday night. It was too close for comfort.

Considering what happened last season against Manhattan — a first-round loss — it was way too close for East coach Ron Allen and his team. So the Aces cut loose in the third quarter, outscoring Derby by 17 points en route to a 77-52 home victory.

“That was the whole half-time speech for Coach Allen,” East forward Nathan Jackson said. “That’s what he wanted to remind us of — how it felt last year to go home early. So we came out in the second half and just took care of business.”

Derby (8-13) got strong first-half efforts from seniors Cameron Cornelius (17 points) and Jabril Richardson, who combined for 15 first-half points to keep the Panthers within striking distance. Considering Derby was 5 of 11 from the free-throw line in the first half, East’s 34-27 halftime lead could have been smaller.

However, all hopes of a Panthers comeback were squashed when East (16-5) went on a 23-5 run in the final 5½ minutes of the third quarter. It was fueled by six forced turnovers and six fast-break points. Guards Jalen Love (20 points) and Ja’ln Williams (16 points) orchestrated East’s third-quarter show.

“This team performs better defensively when we pressure people,” Allen said. “That’s when we’re our strongest. We get after you. We force you to take a quick shot. We come right back at you, and we get into transition. I like to play like that because we have athletes that can benefit from that.”

Jackson (15 points) and RJ Melbert (12 points) also contributed with second-chance baskets.

“That helped us out a lot,” Williams said. “It showed that we have a lot of heart. Especially RJ, he stays on the boards. He might be the quiet one and might not get the recognition, but look at the stats. He dominated the boards and helped us out a lot.”

East will play at Washburn Rural in a sub-state final Friday night, while Derby coach Ryan Herrs was disappointed to send his seniors Cornelius and Richardson out on a low note.

“It’s really hard to see seniors go when you have a season that’s disappointing,” Herrs said. “I feel responsible. I want to do better for those guys. That’s the hard thing for me right now. They’ve been with us for four years and this was all we could do this season.”

Derby (8-13) 13 14 10 15 — 52

East ((16-5) 17 17 27 16 — 77

DERBY: Steadman 5 3-5 15, Dunham 0 2-2 2, Schieber 1 3-4 5, Smith 0 2-4 2, Richardson 3 0-0 7, Chambers 0 1-2 1, Roy 0 1-4 1, Cornelius 6 4-5 17, Horton 1 0-0 2. Totals 16 (4) 16-28 52.

EAST: Williams 5 6-6 16, Love 8 2-3 20, Jackson 6 3-4 15, Melbert 4 4-4 12, Dennis 2 2-2 6, Graham 1 0-0 2, Terrell 1 0-3 2, Johnson 1 0-0 2, Normore 1 0-2 2. Totals 29 (2) 17-25 77.

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