After Tates Creek beat host Henry Clay 68-53 in the city premiere of the boys' basketball season, Commodores Coach Wayne Breeden gave his team a thumbs up.
"First game of the year, I'm pretty pleased," he said. "Playing on the road in the toughest region in the state of Kentucky, and we came away with a victory. That's an accomplishment."
Ryan Fucci, who led Tates Creek with 23 points, five rebounds and three assists, noted the improvement over last season's opener.
"Last year we went on the road and lost (89-75) to Dunbar," the junior point guard said. "So coming into Henry Clay and winning by 15, that's a pretty good start for us."
It wasn't hard to figure out why the ninth-rated Commodores beat Henry Clay.
They had a whopping 44-15 edge on the boards over the smaller Blue Devils. Ezra Garner, a 6-foot-4 senior, led the winners with 12 rebounds to go with 12 points. Marcellus Barksdale, a 6-4 junior, had nine rebounds and 16 points.
"I thought we really attacked the glass," Breeden said.
There were plenty of rebounds to be had, considering how many shots Henry Clay missed in the first half. The Devils were a horrific 4-for-31 (13 percent), allowing Tates Creek to build a 35-17 lead.
"Shooting that bad, I was surprised we were only down 18 at halftime," Coach Daniel Brown said.
Breeden thought his team's first-half performance was boffo.
"We showed up mentally ready to go," he said. "We came out, met the challenge, and made good plays.
"I thought we played well on offense and defense."
To the Blue Devils' credit, they made it a game in the second half. They hit eight of their first 11 shots and closed the gap to 47-41 early in the fourth quarter.
"I wanted to see that Henry Clay heart, and we showed it and climbed back in it," Brown said. "But sometimes it's hard to fight size with speed. Tonight size won."
Brandon Wilder and Marquel Johnson led the Devils with nine points apiece. Ryan Patton added eight.
Henry Clay had only nine turnovers (compared with Tates Creek's 21), but the home team missed 16 of 19 three-point attempts.
When Henry Clay cut the lead from 18 to six, the Commodores answered with a 6-0 flurry to regain control. "Our guys responded to the challenge," Breeden said.
Victory did not disguise all areas of concern, though. Breeden thought his team played into Henry Clay's hands in the second half by taking quick shots and by not letting the clock be its ally.
"At the end we kind of pushed the ball a little too hard," he said. "We're not real good right now slowing it down. We tend to go too fast sometimes.
"But overall, we played well. We won by 15 on the road. That's a pretty good way to start the season."
TATES CREEK (68) — Fucci 7-12 8-12 23, Barksdale 4-8 7-11 16, Garner 6-8 0-0 12, Daugherty 1-4 3-4 5, Gibson 1-2 4-4 6, McMackin 0-1 0-0 0, Potter 2-4 0-0 4, Bradley 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 22-41 22-31 68.
HENRY CLAY (53) — Johnson 2-11 4-6 9, Stewart 2-6 2-6 6, Nichols 0-1 0-0 0, Kiesling 2-5 3-4 7, Kimball 3-6 1-2 7, Patton 3-5 1-1 8, Smith 2-3 0-0 4, Wilder 1-7 7-7 9, Prewitt 1-3 0-0 3, Hellard 0-2 0-0 0, Pinder 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 16-50 18-26 53.
Tates Creek 18 17 12 21 —68
Henry Clay 6 11 19 17—53
Records—Henry Clay 0-1; Tates Creek 1-0