Photo by Beau Bearden.
KINGMAN – Four seasons ago, the Kingman and Kingman Academy high school boys basketball teams met for the first time. The Tigers have controlled the rivalry, but that isn’t the case this year as the Bulldogs tallied their first season sweep Thursday night with a 51-45 victory at KHS.
“We’ve won three out of the last four and that’s a huge boost for these guys,” said Kingman head coach Nick Juby. “They all play against each other at the park and the Wellness Center. When you’re in town, these games are always intense. It’s just big for the kids because it’s a good win.”
Tobias Bagby played an instrumental role for the Bulldogs (2-2), as the senior scored a game-high 22 points. Bagby especially shined late in the fourth quarter, highlighted by a steal and fast-break layup to put his team up 46-41.
“The dude hit a three, so I had to redeem myself – I had to get the points back,” Bagby said. “When he was coming down the court, I had to strip it and get that layup to keep us up.”
Bagby didn’t stop there, as he continued to drive to the hoop, make a basket and get fouled. He converted on a number of his and-1 opportunities – going 5-for-8 from the line – and finished with 15 fourth-quarter points.
“Tobias has had big games lately and he plays a big part as a big man and a guard,” said Kingman’s Elijah Howery. “He’s a really good asset to the team.”
Howery also proved how valuable he is to the Bulldogs by scoring 16 points, including 13 in the first half.
“The quote I like to say is – ‘winning is fun,’” Juby said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s by six, by 60 or by 600. I couldn’t be more proud of the effort, the grit and grind to come back. It’s not easy to come back when that momentum gets swinging. It’s tough.”
The Academy appeared to have the momentum on their side entering the fourth quarter with a 32-30 advantage. However, mental mistakes ultimately cost the Tigers down the stretch.
The Academy’s Nate Perea was called for a technical with 6:17 remaining in the fourth quarter and then another technical was called shortly after on Logan Day – which was his fifth and final foul.
While Nate Lawson, who finished with eight points, only made one of his four free-throw attempts, it still shifted the momentum back in favor of the Bulldogs.
It remained a close game for a few more minutes, until the final blow was dealt when the Academy’s Tyler Chinyere picked up his fifth foul with 3:55 left in the game and Kingman leading 38-36.
“Tyler fouling out was huge,” Juby said. “It kind of gave us a little bit of a boost, too. You could see the confidence in their eyes. Those five did not think any of those other five guys could get them.”
That was exactly the case as the Bulldogs held on for the win without Chinyere on the floor. While it was tough to lose their leader, Academy head coach William McDavid knew Chinyere had to play with 100 percent effort even in foul trouble.
“We’ve been talking about trust during the last month and a half,” McDavid said. “Tyler put trust in his teammates, recognizing that he can’t go soft when he has four fouls. He has to trust his teammates when he’s not in there.”
Chinyere led the Tigers with 16 points, while Bradley Hecker and Donny Tathum each added eight points. While the Academy is now 0-4 on the season, McDavid was pleased to see the team show more effort after a 63-55 loss to Lake Havasu on Tuesday.
“We had a rough one on Tuesday – we didn’t show a lot of heart,” he said. “But today we showed tons of it. We bled our hearts on that floor. We may have lost, but I’m proud of them.
The Tigers are back in action Tuesday as they welcome Winslow to town for a 7 p.m. contest, while Kingman hosts Parker at 7 p.m. Tuesday.