HOWARD — They didn’t have to strap on any padding, but they still had to go up against some pretty tough competition.
Yes, Virginia, East Knox does have a basketball team.
Bulldogs’ fans finally got to see their hometown heroes since their great football run came to an end earlier this month. The Bulldogs started their 2019-20 campaign on the hardwood by hosting the Centerburg Trojans (5-1, 3-0 KMAC), who handed them their first loss of the season, 47-34, in Knox-Morrow Athletic Conference basketball action on Tuesday.
“I thought (East Knox) played extremely hard,” said Centerburg coach Skyler Brusco. “They’re a physical team and they came after us. They had some long possessions. Then, we had to adjust to that from there.”
The Trojans, led by Mick Mead with 21 points (including three 3-pointers), took advantage of several Bulldogs’ turnovers to pull ahead in the middle of the second quarter. Center Hayden Hankinson (seven points) grabbed a steal and turned it into a 2-point layup for the Trojans, giving them a 16-9 lead. Mead dropped in 11 of his points in the first half.
“I just try to get open,” Mead said. “The guys do a great job, setting screens and passing me the ball. It really is all of us working together.”
The Bulldogs rebounded well most of the game, finishing with 22 to the Trojans’ 18. That kept the Bulldogs in the game. Just before halftime, East Knox fought back with a 3-pointer from Nathan Whitney (seven points), a putback from teammate Weston Melick (nine points) and a steal and a layup by Shane Knepp for his only points, shrinking the Trojans’ lead to 19-16 by halftime.
Centerburg’s Hayden Sutton managed to keep a lid on East Knox’ Peyton Lester, holding him to nine points. Lester is expected to be one of the Bulldogs’ major scoring threats this season.
A pair of steals turned into layups by Centerburg’s Carter Jones, followed by another from Mead, opened up the Trojan’s lead to 31-20 in the third quarter. The Trojans benefited by a total of 17 East Knox turnovers, and only gave up the ball 11 times.
“Nick was really under control,” Brusco said. “That was the best part of his 21 points. Defensively, he was very good. He shot the ball well, and I thought he took good shots. He also controlled the tempo, and so I thought he played a really, nice floor game.”
Despite the loss, East Knox coach Ryan Powell is just happy to finally get the season underway. Now, he just has to get his players to take better care of the basketball.
“It’s nice to finally get our first game under our belt,” Powell said. “We need to do a better job with turnovers. I thought, at the half, when we were down by three, we could clean that up in the second half, but we wound up with (17) turnovers. You’re not going to beat Centerburg like that.”
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