(Photo by Josh Mills, Staff)
ORAN -- The Kelly Hawks started off the second day of the Oran Invitational with a bang as they held on to a small lead for 32 minutes to defeat the Malden Green Wave 67-56. For the Hawks, Tuesday's victory had a lot to do with the play from their four-man rotation at the guard position.
"It's no secret that we've got some guards that can handle the ball a little bit," said Kelly head coach Nate Wills. "We turned the ball over some, but then, I was really proud with how we handled the pressure. We've just got to keep our focus and make the easy pass and make things happen."
The Hawks jumped to a steady lead to open the contest and led by as many as 14 points before the first half was over. Zach Essner led Kelly with nine points at the break.
"I thought we came out in the first half and played exceptionally well," said Wills. "We shot lights out in the first half, and it seemed like we couldn't miss. That was one of the things we talked about at halftime, that we shot really well and that we couldn't let up because they were going to make runs."
Wills went on to say that the game was pretty much linked to scoring runs, several which Malden threw together in the second half to make the final 16 minutes interesting. The Green Wave, behind leading scorer Raphael Jones, outscored the Hawks 33-31, but still came up empty in the defeat. Jones ended up with 18 points in the loss.
Josh DeBrock led all scorers with 19 points for the Kelly Hawks. Fellow guards Levi Felter and Ryan Essner combined for 22 points, Felter with 13 and Essner with 9. Felter said his team showed much improvement in their season opener compared to last season's first contest.
"I thought it was a pretty good first game," said Felter. "We handled the pressure pretty well and rebounded well for having four guards on the floor."
Wills said that his squad has a long season ahead of them but that they've now got the first-game jitters out of the way and should be ready to go from this point forward.
"We won 10 games last year," he said. "If we're going to win more than 10 then we're going to play some good teams and we're going to have to learn to close them out."
Up next for Kelly is the No. 1 seed Scott Central Braves on Thursday evening at 6:30 p.m.
In the second contest on Tuesday night in the Oran Invitational, the Bell City Cubs defeated the Cooter Wildcats 80-73 to advance in the loser's bracket of the tournament.
Aaron McCaig hit five 3-pointers and four field goals to rack up 26 points for Cooter, but Skylor Blackler's 21 points aided the Bell City victory.
The Wildcats are now removed from the tournament with their second loss and the Cubs will now play in the consolation game Friday night at 5 p.m. against the loser of the Oran/Malden game which will play out Thursday at 5 p.m.