KINGMAN – It’s tough to beat an opponent when it continues to find a way to stay in the game.
The Kingman High School boys basketball team tried time and time again to deliver the knockout punch Tuesday night, but River Valley countered each time before dealing the Bulldogs a painful 71-69 loss.
“This group is one of the more resilient groups I think I’ve had in my four years,” said Kingman head coach Nick Juby. “They never feel like they’re out of a game. And they don’t play like that either. If they’re down six, it’s all good. We got this. If they’re up six, it’s all good. But it’s just frustrating because I have to do a better job. I’ll have to do a little self-reflecting because I didn’t like how I coached them tonight.”
Even despite that fact, the Bulldogs looked to have gained momentum by taking a 61-58 advantage with 4:10 remaining in the game. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case as Kingman allowed the No. 32 ranked Dust Devils to regain the lead with a 9-0 run.
“It got too much into a crazy helter-skelter game that played right into their hands a little bit,” Juby said. “That’s River Valley’s style. Once they got rolling and got a little momentum, I should have stopped that way quicker (with a timeout).”
The Bulldogs were in a tough spot trailing 67-61 with 1:52 to play, but managed to tie it up 69-69 with less than 30 seconds to play.
But River Valley (4-7, 1-3 3A West Region) earned a trip to the charity stripe and made its two shots to account for the final tally. Kingman did have a couple of opportunities in the final seconds, but came up short in its fourth straight loss.
“I’m fully going to take this one,” Juby said. “I should have done better. My rotations weren’t very good tonight and I should have killed those timeouts for them because these guys gave me everything they got – they played their guts out.”
Jacob Martel led the Bulldogs with 21 points, while Matt Ruggles scored 19 and Jamal Cash added 12 points. However, the difference-maker was the charity stripe where Kingman finished 3-of-7.
“River Valley made 15-of-23 at the free-throw line and that’s kind of what kept them in the game early on because we were kind of rolling right out the gate,” Juby said. “The majority of points that first quarter were at the free-throw line. We probably have to do a better job of defending without fouling. But have to give them credit, they knocked down their free throws.”
The Dust Devils had an astonishing advantage in free throws at halftime (9-of-12) compared to the Bulldogs (1-of-1). Even with that difference, Kingman led 30-20 at the break.
But the advantage quickly disappeared in the third quarter when the Bulldogs were outscored by a 20-7 margin.
“I had coach (Chad) Beck charting our every possession and we had 13 turnovers in the third quarter,” Juby said. “I would imagine when we look at our numbers that their points off turnovers are going to pretty high, especially in that third quarter.”
No. 33 ranked Kingman (3-8, 0-4 3A West Region) is back in action at 7 p.m. Friday against crosstown rival and 19th-ranked Kingman Academy (5-4, 1-2).
“We probably need a couple of days to get ready for it,” Juby said. “It’s the beauty of this game – unlike football, you don’t have to wait a week to play. It’s a couple of days usually. We’ll get there. I have full faith in them. I know what they’re capable of.”
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