AMERICAN CORNER — As the regular season nears its finish, the Kent Island High boys’ basketball team seems to be getting better at finishing.
“One thing we hadn’t been doing, which we’re doing better, is finishing,” Bucs head coach Frank Kratovil said. “We didn’t do that in the first game against (Colonel Richardson).”
The Buccaneers shook off a rocky start Monday night against the Colonels at Merrill Morgan Gymnasium, for a 66-57 victory that extended their win streak to four after a mid-January skid.
Both teams are now 9-5 overall, 7-4 North Bayside. Colonel has not beaten a Bayside Conference opponent with a winning record since topping Kent Island, 62-59, in Stevensville on Dec. 20.
“We did not shoot well,” Colonel head coach Brad Plutschak said after his team’s three-game win streak had ended. “And, not to take anything away from them, we just played a sloppy game. We couldn’t get shots to fall, and when we got the rebound couldn’t take advantage of it.”
The Bucs scored off the tip, beginning a first period which saw the teams combine to miss more than 20 shots. The lead was swapped four times in the first quarter before a bucket by TaQuan Courtney (11 points, eight rebounds) with 2 minutes, 7 seconds left gave Kent Island a lead it never surrendered at 9-7.
A quick 11-2 run through the halfway point of the second period gave the Bucs breathing room. Colonel, meanwhile, couldn’t pry the lid off the bucket, missing seven straight 3-point tries at one stretch, and scoring just seven more points by intermission.
Kent Island led 22-14 at half, Colonel’s last five points coming from junior swing man Diante Dickerson (game-high 26 points) on its last two possessions.
“I don’t know what it was,” Plutschak said. “I’ve had times in the past where we didn’t touch a basketball for a week, and we come in and make our first five shots. I don’t want to sound like we’re making excuses.
“We hadn’t played or practiced since Thursday,” Plutschak added. “We had that weather come in Friday, and made a mess, and we didn’t have after-school activities then, because the roads were just a mess.
“And Saturday, I drove over here to the gym, to see if maybe we could get some practice time in,” Plutschak added. “But no, the roads were still too bad, so we decided not to do it. ... We shot cold tonight for a long stretch.”
Colonel’s inaccuracy didn’t lull Kent Island’s Cole Kratovil to sleep, though.
“You remember, the last game,” Cole Kratovil asked. “We led in the second half by 19 points, and they came back and beat us. So, we knew they might have been missing shots early, but with teams that shoot like that, it’s bound to come around, and it did in the second half. And number five (Dickerson) is just an amazing player. I think he’s the best player in this league. He’s so hard to defend.
“I think in the last game, they outscored us — actually, I think he (Dickerson) outscored us all by himself in the fourth quarter,” Cole Kratovil added. “So we knew we just had to try to keep playing defense.
“Our defense has been key for us all season,” Kratovil added. “But the difference is that we’ve had so many games we didn’t close out. ... I think we’ve led in every game this year at halftime, but we have lost several because of not finishing. That was our goal tonight.”
The Bucs achieved it, though Dickerson’s layup pulled Colonel within 48-43, with 4:16 remaining.
But Kent Island stretched its lead to as many as 12 in the closing moments.
Malachi Graham and Cole Kratovil each scored 15 for the Buccaneers, and Toby Skeans added 10.
Colonel’s Lorenzo Turner scored 11, and Jaylin Duncan added eight.
Dickerson, who scored his 1,000th career point Jan. 22 at North Dorchester, was presented with a commemorative ball to mark the accomplishment before the game. He currently sits at 1,026 for his career.