By Brad Cameron
The West Hancock Titans weren’t going to let Keokuk beat them by scoring inside during Tuesday’s boys basketball game at Wright Fieldhouse
West Hancock limited Kendall Clark’s touches inside by constantly double-teamming the 6-8 senior post player. The Titans forced Keokuk to fire shots from the perimeter, and the Chiefs struggled. Keokuk shot just 25.6 percent (10 of 39) from the field and fell to West Hancock 53-35.
“Their two guards, (Dan) Williams and (Jonny) Dahl, are very effective. They can take it off the bounce. We wanted to make sure we had them accounted for, but we also needed to make sure we gave help up on Clark inside,” said West Hancock Head Coach Reno Pinkston. “I thought we did a nice job of rotating and helping on him and pressuring the ball. We were getting out to the guys on the perimeter and getting our hands up so they couldn’t pass into the post.”
Both teams got off to a sluggish start on the offensive end. Trevor Knipe opened the game with a three-pointer, and Parker Gibbs scored inside to give West Hancock a quick 5-0 lead, but the Titans didn’t score the rest of the quarter. Keokuk, however, couldn’t take advantage. Wes Bradley made the lone field goal, while the Chiefs turned the ball over seven times in the opening quarter.
“We got some early looks to Kendall that he just missed, and it kind of snowballed from there,” said Keokuk Head Coach Jeff Dahl.
Dahl hit a jumper from the wing to start the second quarter that cut the deficit to 5-4, but West Hancock responded with seven straight points. Austin Hardy hit a three-pointer, Knipe converted a steal into a lay-up, and Paxton Harmon scored his lone points of the first half on a baseline jumper to put the Titans ahead 12-4.
Dahl made a three-pointer to cut the deficit to five, but the Titans finished the first half with a 10-1 run. Hardy and Knipe each hit a three-pointer in the final minute of the second quarter to give West Hancock a 22-8 halftime lead.
Keokuk finished the first half 3 of 12 from the field, while turning the ball over 11 times.
“When we are scrambling like that in our half-court defense, we can make it difficult,” Pinkston said. “If we have one or two guys who aren’t being a part of it, it breaks down. We talked a lot about what we wanted to do to take away their strengths, and I thought we did a really nice job of doing that.”
West Hancock had a 26-12 lead, but Keokuk made a run in the third quarter to get back into the game.
Clark scored inside, and Dahl followed with a three-pointer to trim the margin to 26-17. Gibbs scored for West Hancock to push the lead to 11, but Chris Ailes-Jones made a three to pull Keokuk to within 28-20.
Clark split a pair of free throws, and Drake Reiter made two free throws to cut the deficit to five, and Williams made a three-pointer to close the gap to 28-26 with one minute left in the third quarter.
It was as close as Keokuk would get. Harmon got to the basket off the dribble, scored and was fouled. He sank the free throw to complete the three-point play to give West Hancock a five-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
“That was a big play in the game,” coach Dahl said. “The referee gave him an NBA continuation call. He was still on the ground when the whistle blew, but they gave him the call that resulted in a three-point play.”
Ben Sinele opened the final quarter with a back door cut for a lay-up, and Harmon added a jumper from the top of the key to push the lead to 35-26.
“We had a couple of situations where we didn’t guard well, but I thought our defense was pretty good for the part time,” coach Dahl said.
Keokuk didn’t get closer than six points the rest of the game.
“We knew they would come out as hard as they could off the dribble and kick to guys cutting or shooting, and they hit some shots,” Pinkston said “We had to make a slight adjustment because (Clark) was still in the game. We had to make sure we accounted for him, but now we also had to get out to shooters a little bit quicker. I thought the guys weathered the storm really well.”
Williams made a three-pointer to pull Keokuk to within 38-32 with 3:13 left, but the Chiefs went cold from the field the rest of the game. Keokuk’s final points came on a three-point play off an offensive rebound by Clark with 45 seconds left.
“They hit some. I’m awful anxious when one of those shooters lets one go,” Pinkston said. “I thought we made them shoot a little quicker than what they liked, and we made sure it was one shot and out. They have the leading rebounder in their conference, and we had to make sure we accounted for him.”
“We had open looks,” coach Dahl said. “We had guys wide open, but we couldn’t hit the shots.”
West Hancock finished the game with a 15-3 run. Harmon did most of the damage from the free throw line, going 10 for 10 in the final 1:24.
“There are times in games when you have to make big plays, and we made them,” Pinkston said.
Harmon had 19 points and 10 rebounds to lead West Hancock. Knipe scored 13 points. Hardy added eight points. Gibbs tossed in seven points. Sinele netted four points, and Wesley Shipe scored two points.
Dahl scored 11 points to lead Keokuk. Clark had eight points and seven rebounds. Williams added six points. Ailes-Jones tallied four points, and Chris Barclift, Bradley and Reiter each scored two points.
Keokuk played without starter Gabe Vandenberg.
“Gabe left for Iowa City before the game because his grandmother was having surgery,” coach Dahl said. “We found out just before the game he wasn’t going to be there, and that affected us.”
West Hancock, 17-4, plays at Quincy Notre Dame Friday, while Keokuk, 11-5, plays at Washington Friday