By: Jim Steele
Sir Isaac Newton might have been proud of McKenzie's effort in the District 13A semifnals Friday night at Bethel University's Crisp Arena.
Newton posited for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. When the Rebels needed to respond to Dresden, it did and in a big, not-so equal way. McKenzie defeated Dresden 67-37. This marks the sixth straight win for the Rebels over Dresden.
With the victory, McKenzie moves to the District 13A championship 7:30 p.m. Monday at Bethel against Huntingdon, who defeated West Carroll in the other semifinal. The Rebels have yet to beat the Mustangs this year.
The Rebels jumped to a 14-4 led in the first quarter and slowly built their margin to a 33-points in the final frame. Dresden ran into a red-hot team.
"It was a struggle. All of it took playce on our offensive end. Nothing they did was unexpected. We know they can shoot it. They dared us to shoot it and we weren't making any, but we weren't getting any rebounds and we got frustrated," said Dresden coach Tommy Dilday. "We don't play well that way. We didn't get off to a good start."
McKenzie authored a well-rounded effort. The Rebels scored well from the paint, from the perimeter and doubled Dresden's rebounding total, 30-15. Brandon Baucum led the Rebels with 18 points, Preston Henderson was 5-7 from the three-point line for 15 points and Bryce Wiggins had one of his best games of the year with 12 points. For the game, McKenzie 50 percent from the floor, 47 percent from the three-point line and was 14-19 from the free throw stripe.
"Everybody contrinuted tonight. I was proud of our collective defensive effort and we executed well and did a good job on stuff we worked on all week," said McKenzie coach John Wilkins. "We gave up three offensive rebounds and we held Winn to seven and that was big."
Dresden was a scant 1-11 from the floor in the first quarter and only had one second-chance on the offensive end. Dresser Winn's bucket with 2:11 to play in the first cut the MHS lead to two, 6-4. That's when Henderson served notice that he was going to be a problem for the Lions. Nineteen seconds later, he drained a three to give the Rebels a 9-4 advantage and lit the fuse for McKenzie. With 1:07 to play, he buried another triple, followed by Tyler King's shot from the block with :20 to play. The Rebels were quickly up 14-4.
McKenzie scored the first six points of the second to give it a 20-4 lead. Back came Dresden, buoyed by threes from Quncey McDonald, who finished with a team-high 12, and Winn. But Henderson took aim again for McKenzie, followed by marksmanship from Bryce Wiggins and a nine-point lead expanded to 13 quickly. Dylan Yates scored for the Lions with about a half-minute to play to cut the lead to 11, 31-20.
As the third frame opened, McKenzie went on a 16-5 run for a 22-point, 47-25 lead. It seemed Dresden had no answers from that point.
"We were still fighting and they hit some big shots. They had 31 in at the half," said Dilday. "They hit a few shots to start the second half and we had a couple of really bad possessions and it snowballed after that."
The Rebels exploded to start the fourth and outpaced the Lions 10-2. Baucum electrified the McKenzie crowd with a pair of dunks early in the final frame and was greeted with a nice ovation after he exited the floor with 4:54 to play. The Rebels led by as many as 33 in the fourth.
"You never expect to win like this at this time of year. We came out in the second half and had a run and it seemed like we pushed it to 20," Wilkins said. "I didn't expect us to win by this margin, we'd have taken a one-point. It was just kind of a perfect storm."
Dylan Yates had five, Tyrone Jones and Wade Moran had two each for Dresden. The Lions were 38.1 percent from the floor and 2-5 from the free throw line.
Tyler King had eight points, Ben Austin six and Paul Watkins two for McKenzie.
"Proud of the kids," Wilkins said. "It was fun tonight and hopefully we can do it again Monday night."
The Rebels have assured themselves of hosting the Region 7A quarterfinals next week.
"A region game at home is huge. We'll have a great crowd and these games are fun," Wilkins said. "It's four fifth straight year to host."