Prep basketball: Rockets fall to sharp-shooting ACA

Ankeny Christian Academy sophomore Ben McDermott (20) reaches out for a pass while being defended by Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont junior Jared McCrea (40) during boys prep basketball action at EBF High School on Saturday.

EDDYVILLE — Live by the 3. Die by the 3.

Ankeny Christian Academy has been doing a lot of living so far this season.

The Bluegrass Conference runner-up became just the third team in the state so far this season to hit over 180 shots from 3-point range, sinking 11 on Saturday in a 69-62 win at Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont. The Eagles are now third overall with 181 made 3-pointers, one behind Waukee for second place in the state and just eight behind state leader West Sioux.

Ankeny Christian Academy entered Saturday’s game at EBF second to West Sioux in 3-point attempts with 491 in 18 games. The Eagles easily joined West Sioux as the only teams with over 500 attempts from 3-point territory, shooting 28 against the Rockets including 15 in the first half.

Early on, the shots would not fall for ACA (17-3), allowing the Rockets to score the first eight points of the contest. After starting 0-8 from the field, the Eagles finally got on the board when Malachi Johnson found Cale Leever for a lay-up, kicking off a 13-4 run for ACA to close the quarter with a go-ahead 3-pointer by Nic Worsham giving the Eagles a 13-12 lead.

“We knew we were going to have our hands full defending the 3-point shot,” EBF head boys basketball coach Travis Stout said. “Early on, we did a pretty good job of it. Then, they just got hot.”

EBF (5-12) tied the score in the second quarter when Kalen Walker found Isaiah Smith for a lay-up. The Eagles would go on top for good scoring 14 unanswered points to double up EBF at 28-14, taking advantage of four straight Rocket turnovers that led to four straight ACA field goals.

“It wasn’t that we weren’t guarding the 3-point shot. It’s just that they would catch and shoot the ball so quickly,” Stout said. “They can get you playing too fast sometimes. They will attack you defensively. The only way you can counter it is to attack them back.”

EBF got as close as eight early in the second half, countering the perimeter attack of the Eagles by attacking the interior scoring eight of the first 10 points in the third quarter in the paint. Leever matched that run with consecutive 3-pointers, part of a game-high 17 points for the ACA junior as the Eagles opened a 44-30 lead.

Back-to-back field goals in the fourth quarter by Thane Alexander got EBF back within single digits with three minutes to play at 63-54. Leever then connected on a 3-pointer with 2:50 left, giving the Eagles a 66-54 lead. The Rockets got within seven on a late 3-pointer by Kalen Walker, who matched Smith with 13 points. Ethan Davis led EBF with 14 points in what proved to be the ninth single-digit loss of the year for the Rockets and 10th overall loss by 10 points or less.

“These guys have such great attitudes and they continue to work hard,” Stout said. “It seems like we’ve been so close a lot and been on the losing end, but it doesn’t affect them. It doesn’t change the way they play. They just look forward to the next challenge.”

EBF secured a close win on Monday, holding off North Mahaska 75-67 on Senior Night. Four different Rockets reached double figures with Smith leading the way with 19 points. Davis added 14 points, all inside the paint, while Alexander scored 13. Walker scored 10 in his final regular season home basketball game.

“We played very well against a very good North Mahaska team,” Stout said. “It was probably our best complete game of the season. Rebounding and offensive transition were big keys.”

ACA scored a second straight win over a South Central Conference opponent on Monday, beating the undisputed SCC champion Albia Blue Demons 79-52. The Eagles stayed close in a high-octane opening quarter, trailing only 23-20 before racking up 26 points in the second quarter to build a 46-30 halftime lead.

EBF (6-12) will get one crack at Ankeny Christian Academy on the road Friday to close out the regular season. The Rockets are hoping to build some late-season momentum before opening the Class 2A district tournament at home on Monday, Feb. 17, against SCC rival Davis County.

“This district is wide open. Anybody has the chance to beat anybody else,” Stout said. “The thing we keeping forward to is that, maybe, we can make the close games go our way before the season is over.”

Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.

Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.

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