WENDELL — The Declo High School boys basketball team continued to show growth under second-year head coach Jacoby Fox against Wendell on Tuesday.
The Hornets earned a 54-32 victory over the Trojans, their lone Canyon Conference foe, on the road.
The game started with a bang, provided by sophomore Tyler Andersen, who drained three 3-pointers in a row. Fox said that early spark was something that the team was missing in its road loss on Saturday to Filer.
“Anyone who was at that game could see that we came out very flat,” he said. “So we said we were going to come out strong today, and it showed.”
In the second quarter, the size difference between the teams — Declo lists seven players 6-foot-2 or taller, Wendell lists one — began to show, as Hornets like junior Keegan Duncan and senior Richard Robertson got touches in the post and grabbed offensive boards. Declo took a 31-7 halftime lead.
Wendell showed some life in the second half, with a 10-point third quarter and a couple of possessions where the smaller Trojans grabbed consecutive offensive rebounds. But the Hornets did, too, scoring 19 points in the third quarter before going deep into their bench in the fourth.
Andersen scored a game-high 14 points, 11 in the first quarter. He was followed in scoring by two players Fox said have been big contributors in every game: Duncan and senior Trey Smyer, with nine points apiece.
“Trey is the catalyst of the offense,” Fox said. “Tonight was the least amount of time we’ve had him on the floor all season.”
“Keegan is the problem matchup for most teams,” he added. “If you try to play him big, he uses that great speed he has. If you put a fast guard on him, he uses his size and strength. The thing for him is morphing him from the great football player he is back into a basketball player. It’s a process.”
Against Wendell, the Hornets saw something Fox thought they might see: the Trojans played Declo with a zone defense, which Filer used to hold the Hornets to 36 points.
“Our man-to-man offense and defense is our bread and butter,” he said. “Tonight, we had to learn how to execute in space against the zone defense, to be methodical and decisive. But it looks like it’s all clicking.”
It’s only the second year for Declo with Fox at the helm. Last year, his Hornets took a one-win performance from the 2015-2016 season and turned into a nine-win playoff team.
Declo’s already topped that win total this season, with the win at Wendell pushing the Hornets to 10-2.
“Confidence has made a big difference,” Fox said. “(A lot) of those losses last year were in the single digits. Now we’re learning to win and starting to prove to ourselves that we’re better.”
Duncan said part of the improvement has been adapting to what Fox wants to do.
“Last season his system was new and we were kind of scrambling,” Duncan said. “We’ve learned the system and just flow better this year.”
The Trojans suffered their 32nd consecutive loss on Tuesday night, but it wasn’t so long ago that they were in Declo’s spot. In the 2015-2016 season, Wendell earned third place honors at the 2A state tournament after an 18-4 regular season that included a 10-game win streak.
For Declo, Ducan said it’s all about staying focused improving into the playoffs, something that isn’t guaranteed for the Hornets.
“We know that we’ve got to beat Wendell and win a play-in game,” he said. “We’re doing well, but we have a long way to go.”
Declo 54, Wendell 23
Declo 16 15 19 4 — 54
Wendell 2 5 10 6 — 23
DECLO (54) — Keegan Duncan 9, Trey Smyer 9, Caden Hamilton 2, Tyler Andersen 14, Garrett Darrington 5, Caleb Moore 2, Bart Gibby 7, Richard Robertson 6.
WENDELL (23) — Mason Lawton 5, Angel Espino 7, Blake Hughes 4, Felipe Paniagua 6, Melvin Paniagua 1.
Wendell isn't shooting well from the field but is having a much better third quarter. These two rebounds led to a foul, and a rebound off a foul miss led to another foul. It's 44-15 at the 2:00 mark 3rd Q. #idpreps #declohornets #wendelltrojans pic.twitter.com/TWgYNKDWNC— Jake Crouse (@jake_crouse94) January 10, 2018