Friday night, state-ranked D-B (18-2, 11-0) moved within sight of clinching the Big 9 Conference title with a 73-56 win over Sullivan Central.
However, it wasn’t as easy as the final margin might indicate. For 3Â½ quarters, the Cougars (9-11, 5-5) traded the Tribe almost blow for blow.
In practically every game, coach Charlie Morgan gets a game-winning performance from a different player. On Tuesday night it was Jordan Edwards with a career-high 30-point effort. This time Dustin McConnell came off the bench to score 19 — 13 in a five-minute stretch of the second quarter.
“That’s what I’d like to get from Dustin on any given night,’’ Morgan said. “Jordan got 30 at Crockett but we didn’t have to ask him to come in here tonight and do the same. We don’t have to rely on just one player. It’s very special having several to step up like they have been.’’
Point guard Jamel Williams, aside from distributing the ball to eight other players who scored, found time to hit 15 points himself.
The play that aroused many of the 2,200 spectators was Williams’ blocked shot on a breakaway layup halfway through the opening quarter. Trailing the shooter, he leaped high in the air and smacked the ball just as it touched the board.
“Jamel played a very good floor game,’’ Morgan said of the transfer from New York. “He’s blending his talent well with the other players. He’s got some street ball in him but he loves the game. His effort was solid tonight.’’
D-B had beaten these same Cougars by 54 points early in the season.
“I knew coming in that Central was going to be ready for us,’’ Morgan said. “I told our guys they had to put that other game behind them. Playing blowouts isn’t always good. Central was shooting it this time.’’
The Indians weren’t perfect, committing 24 turnovers.
“We’ve got to cut that number down,’’ Morgan said. “We didn’t place a lot of value on the ball.’’
Central bolted to a 24-18 lead on the shooting of Neil Jackson, Mickey Brown, Josh Kaiko and Jason Rock.
Enter McConnell. He hit a jumper, stole the ball for a layup, sank two free throws, fired in a 3-pointer, put back a rebound and connected with a 15-footer at the halftime buzzer to put D-B on top 39-32.
Central coach Tony Vaughn has seen vast improvement by his team.
“We’re slowly getting there,’’ he said. “We’re two weeks behind where we should be. Rock shot well in the first half and Neil gave us some good minutes off the bench. We played hard but got beat on the boards and on free throws. When it was 56-50 we had a chance but missed, and D-B converted a layup.’’
Central won the girls’ game 56-53 in an upset that had the crowd buzzing.
“We’d been needing a breakthrough win,’’ coach Gary Surcey said. “We hung in there. D-B had beaten us by 20-plus points down there. We’re getting better every time out.’’
Whitney Moody tossed in 22 points, Jacqueline Kestner 13 and Brittany Fields 12 for the Lady Cougars (9-11, 4-6).
Central trailed 53-52 with 51 seconds remaining. Kestner sealed the win by making three free throws in the final 48 seconds. Monica Kaylor got the last point with three seconds to go.
“Jacqueline is just a freshman,’’ Surcey said. “She really played well, getting rebounds and hitting free throws.’’
Moody tied D-B’s Blaine Frohlich for scoring honors. She played in high gear throughout.
“Whitney takes it personally when an opponent scores,’’ Surcey said. “She has no conscience when it comes to shooting.’’
D-B (14-6, 8-3) led after the first quarter 16-10 but Fields, Kestner and Moody rallied Central to a 23-22 halftime edge.
The third quarter belonged to Moody, who sank nine points to expand the lead to 42-35.
However, Frohlich went on a rampage. Her putback with 1:58 remaining regained the lead for D-B 49-48. It was back and forth the rest of the way.
“D-B has so much size with Frohlich, Juli Osborne and Megan Devine,’’ Surcey said.
Frohlich had an outstanding night. Besides her 22 points, she grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked nine shots.
“We went with a bigger lineup late in the game,’’ D-B coach Roger France said. “We had a great look at the basket at the end.
“Central played lights out and we didn’t play as well as we should have. We had plenty of chances. This league is tough, and there’s a lot of basketball left.’’
D-B was without two players — Holly France and Alli Harville. France has syncope, a fainting disorder. She passed out in the dressing room before the game. Harville is dealing with a stomach ailment.
“It’s been a tough week,’’ the Lady Indians’ coach said.