Wednesday’s game didn’t end the way Las Vegas High’s boys basketball team would have liked. But coach Jason Wilson said an ugly win is still a win.
The Wildcats led by as many as 14 points in the second quarter, and watched the lead dry up to just three points in the fourth. Donovan Joyner’s 37 points helped stake Las Vegas a big enough lead that it could hold on and outlast host Eldorado, 82-73.
“We were undisciplined on defense, we just didn’t play like we’re coached to do,” Wilson said. “We thought we had chances to put the game away early and didn’t take advantage of it.
“It’s always good to get a win, on the road, in conference, on the first game, against a good team.”
The Wildcats (11-4, 1-0 Northeast League) looked poised to run away with the game in the first half, and Joyner scored 15 in the first quarter alone. They led 45-31 midway through the second quarter, and took a nine-point lead into halftime.
But the Sundevils (10-5, 0-1) did not quit. They slowly ate away at the Wildcats’ lead: six points with four minutes to go, then three points with 100 seconds left after Jalen Malone scored a bucket, finished the three-point play, got a steal and dished to Kemo Bell for the score.
But that was the last field goal Eldorado would score, and the Wildcats pounced. Las Vegas ended the game on a 10-4 run to put the game away.
“We maintained, we kept calm and just did our thing,” Joyner said. “We stopped the dribble-drive and we stopped the 3-point ball.”
It’s tough for a player to be disappointed after scoring 37 points, but Joyner said he wasn’t happy. He made his first six free throws of the game, then shot 4 of 12 from the line the rest of the way, including going to the line 10 times in the fourth quarter.
“I didn’t play to my potential because missed too many free-throws and easy buckets,” he said.
But his early-game dominance was enough. He had 21 points at halftime, and brought down 12 rebounds. Teammate Jaylin Headen scored 14, and Zion Edwards had 15 boards to help the Wildcats claim their league opener.
Eldorado, playing without star junior Jonathan Thomas, got 17 points from Jordan Carter and 16 from Bell.