NEW BOSTON — Nobody expected New Boston’s Jerome McKinley to have the impact he did on Friday night’s contest against Clay … that is, other than Jerome McKinley.
In fact, Tigers coach Adam Cox actually contemplated limiting McKinley’s playing time and allowing him to play three quarters of the JV contest — which would’ve meant McKinley wouldn’t have been eligible to play the full 32-minute varsity contest.
Instead, Cox’s assistants convinced him otherwise and McKinley showed up and showed out.
In his first-ever varsity contest, the freshman dropped a game-high 24 points, pacing the Tigers (4-1, 3-0 SOC I) to a 64-51 win over the Panthers (3-3, 1-2 SOC I) in their home SOC opener.
“McKinley, off the bench, played lights out. I didn’t expect it,” Cox said. “I even thought about playing him three quarters of JV today. They said, ‘No, just give him two quarters and unleash him in the varsity game.’ We didn’t know what to expect. He’s been practicing everyday and goes against our first team everyday. For him to get a chance to get some time on the floor … that’s big for us.”
McKinley, who came off the bench around the 4-minute mark in the first quarter, instantly provided a spark for New Boston’s offense; which to that point, had struggled.
“I had to show what I could do,” McKinley said. “I’ve been gone for four games and I was waiting for this time to come.”
While McKinley instructed his impromptu shooting clinic, teammate Kyle Sexton messed around and finished with a triple-double to the tune of 14 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists.
Those two performances were paired with a 19-point outing via senior Tyler Caldwell.
When you put them altogether, you get a three-headed monster that’s not easy to slay.
“Sexton is just … him and Tyler are our leaders,” Cox said. “When you’re two of the best big men in southern Ohio, you’re supposed to do what they did tonight. I tell them to look for each other every time. They both can handle the ball well, they’re both good passers. They found each other numerous times tonight.”
Tale of the tape
While the end result was a 13-point win, New Boston started in an 11-point hole.
On the heels of Reece Whitley and Garret Beegan, Clay took an 11-0 lead with 3:33 left in the first quarter. The Tigers didn’t get their first bucket — via Sexton — until the 2:36 mark.
But after entering the second trailing 11-4, Cox’s crew settled in, followed the game plan and watched McKinley enjoy a breakout performance.
“We spotted them 11 and I thought it was a game we would have to try and pull out at the end,” Cox said. “We were able to fight back rather quickly and establish the ball in the post to [Kyle] Sexton. Clay came out ready. [Clay coach Garrick] ‘Tiny’ [Anderson], he’s a good friend and he had his kids ready to play. Sometimes, you have to overcome that.”
Still, the Panthers hung around as New Boston took a one-point edge into the fourth at 41-40.
But down the stretch, doses of McKinley, Sexton and Caldwell were too much for Clay to overcome as the Tigers pulled away late.
“It’s a great win for us in our SOC home opener,” Sexton said. “Clay did a good job on me and [Tyler] Caldwell, forcing us to take tough shots. My dude Jerome started balling out today, his first game. They tried to get the ball out of our hands and I just tried to facilitate for my teammate and make everyone on the court better.”
After McKinley’s game-high 24 points and Sexton’s triple-double, Caldwell added three rebounds and two assists to his 19 points.
For Clay, Whitley finished with 20 points and five boards while Beegan added 12 points of his own. Shaden Malone ended the night with 11 rebounds and Hunter Mathias added 10 points.
What’s on tap
New Boston will attempt to continue its winning ways, hosting Whiteoak Saturday evening. Meanwhile, the Panthers will try to bounce back, hosting North Adams.
“With Green having [guard Tanner] Kimbler out and losing a couple of early games, it’s kind of opened the door for us to be a possible one seed or two seed in our sectional draw,” Cox said. “I’d say us and Whiteoak are two of the top teams in our sectional. When you get a head-to-head matchup like that, you need to win it.”
BOYS BASKETBALL FINAL: New Boston 64, Clay 51.
— Derrick Webb (@dw1509) December 15, 2018
Clay: 11-12-17-11 — 51
New Boston: 4-19-18-23 — 64
Clay: 19-50 FG, 9-14 FT, 4-15 3pt., 26 rebounds (Malone 11), 12 turnovers, 7 assists (Malone 4). Scoring: Whitley 20, Beegan 12, Mathias 10, Cottle 3, Malone 2, Newton 2, Hudson 2.
New Boston: 25-56 FG, 9-14 FT, 4-17 3pt., 29 rebounds (Sexton 17), 11 turnovers, 16 assists (Sexton 10). Scoring: McKinley 24, Caldwell 19, Sexton 14, Saunders 3, Mays 2, Gosshen 2.