On a normal day at an Indian Hills basketball practice, any number of players would probably stand out as prolific long-range shooters.
Guys like Ronald Ross, the team leader with 31 trays drained so far this season. Or Frank Williams, who drained five of the Warriors’ single-game best 15 3-pointers on Friday against Clinton.
According to sophomore Jameel McKay, however, the best sharpshooter on the team is a player that hadn’t even attempted one in a game before the Hy-Vee Classic.
“A lot of people don’t know that Majok (Deng) is probably our best 3-point shooter,” McKay said. “He works hard on it every day. We expect those shots to go in when he takes them.”
That expectation would explain why, despite missing his only first and only attempt from 3-point range on Friday, the Warriors had no problem getting Deng open looks early on against Mineral Area. It would also explain why Deng didn’t hesitate when he was given the chance.
The second and third 3-point attempts from Deng were just as pure as McKay described, coming at a pivotal point against 13-2 Mineral Area Saturday night at the Hellyer Student Life Center. The trays by Deng, along with another career night from McKay, helped IHCC overcome a thin bench to beat a deeper Cardinals’ squad to close out the Hy-Vee Classic with a 97-82 win.
“We’ve got a great group of guys that all can play,” Deng said. “When you get your opportunity to play, you’ve just got to come in and do what you have to do to help the team win.”
“That’s what he does,” Indian Hills head coach Barret Peery said of Deng’s big 3-pointers. “He’s a big pick-and-pop four man. I’m really proud of him. He got his number called early and was ready to go immediately. He impacted the game for us.”
The gravity of Deng’s impact came as a result of the Warriors suffering further depletion to their depth. Already without the services of Jelan Kendrick and Ronnie Stevens, IHCC learned they would be without Trinson White due to illness just hours before tipoff.
Things only got stretched thinner for Indian Hills minutes into the contest as starter Richard Amardi went out of the game with an undisclosed injury. That left IHCC with only nine players available to go for the majority of the contest.
“When I woke up (Saturday), I would have hoped that both Trinson and Richard would have played about 20 minutes each for us,” Peery said. “We just had to adjust on the fly, but we preach all the time that Indian Hills is playing and not just one guy.”
“It doesn’t matter who’s playing for us. We expect to win and we better win at home.”
Mineral Area didn’t make that easy for Indian Hills early on as the two teams exchanged five ties, five lead changes and a seemingly early exchange of normal game plans. The Warriors found themselves slowed down into a half-court offense while Mineral Area tried to press the tempo.
“You have to give Mineral Area a lot of credit,” Peery said. “They’ve been defending so well this season and they did a good job slowing us up a little early on.”
“If it seemed like we were playing more half-court, that wasn’t our intent,” McKay added. “Nobody in the world can practice up-tempo the way we can. We knew coming in they could try to increase the tempo and we just tried to use that to our advantage.”
IHCC finally started to take control of the game after Mineral Area tied things at 15-15. Deng then hit the first of his back-to-back 3-pointers as the Warriors six straight points to open their biggest lead, which grew to double digits before the half was over as IHCC’s freshman from Adelaide, Australia took advantage of some extra work done following Friday’s game.
“I didn’t feel my shot was right during the game, so I went out there and worked on it,” Deng said. “I wanted to get my shot right in case I got more opportunities.”
“He’s always ready. He spends a ton of time in the gym and he was really well rewarded,” Peery added.
While the Warriors had to rely on a number of different players throughout the night, McKay led the way by topping his previous career high in points set last Saturday against Independence. McKay scored 32 points and pulled in 15 rebounds, joining Ronald Ross (21 points and 10 assists) as one of two Warriors to score double-doubles.
“I’m trying to lead by example not just scoring but by being out there on the court,” McKay, who has averaged 27.3 points over three games since being benched last week. “I don’t ever want to see my guys going to war without me again.”
No. 11 IHCC (13-1) hosts NIACC on Tuesday in the Warriors final game before the holiday break.
No. 11 INDIAN HILLS 97, MINERAL AREA 82
MACC (82) — Shaquille Boga 26, Jay Raulston 23, Orlando Johnson 8, Leon Watkins 8, D’Angelo Tucker 7, Mark Nolan 6, Bryce Weibrecht 2, Jack White 2. Totals 31-74 16-24 82.
3-point goals — 4-19 (Raulston 2-4, Boga 1-2, Tucker 1-7, White 0-1, Watkins 0-5). Fouled out — Watkins. Rebounds — 34 (Raulston 9, Watkins 8, Boga 5, Johnson 3, Denzel Reed 3, Nolan 2, Weibrecht 2, Tucker, White). Assists — 24 (Tucker 7, Boga 3, Reed 3, Keenan Clark 2, Nolan 2, Raulston 2, Watkins 2, White 2, Jackson Conoway). Steals — 12 (Boga 3, Nolan 3, Raulston 2, Tucker 2, Watkins, White). Blocks — 1 (Raulston). Total fouls — 20. Turnovers — 13.
IHCC (97) — Jameel McKay 32, Ronald Ross 21, Frank Williams 13, Dustin Hogue 9, Majok Deng 8, Gary Williams, Jr. 7, Rawane Ndiaye 4, Gary Ross 3. Totals 39-69 10-21 97.
3-point goals — 9-22 (R. Ross 4-7, Deng 2-3, G. Ross 1-2, Williams, Jr. 1-3, Williams 1-4, McKay 0-1, Hogue 0-2). Rebounds — 44 (McKay 15, Deng 8, Ndiaye 6, R. Ross 5, Williams, Jr. 4, Hogue 3, Williams 2, Richard Amardi). Assists — 32 (R. Ross 10, Williams 6, Williams, Jr. 6, Hogue 4, G. Ross 4, McKay 2). Steals — 5 (Williams 2, Deng, Hogue, McKay). Blocks — 3 (Deng 2, Williams, Jr.). Total fouls — 19. Turnovers — 17.
Halftime: Indian Hills 49, Mineral Area 38