BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
DANVILLE – Central Lee Head Coach Evan Swanson is also a teacher.
And he gave the Hawks a stern lesson heading into the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s 53-47 loss on the road to Danville (2-0).
The Hawks were coming off a disappointing 45-44 loss to Davis County on Saturday at home. Tuesday night, they had held Danville, who put up 69 on West Burlington a week ago, to just 15 in the first half.
“It’s simple and frustrating to stay – but we don’t know how to win games yet,” Swanson said.
“I’ve been with these boys for four years now, and the past few years a lot of them played varsity minutes. We’ve been there with so many of our opponents and we just don’t know how to win.”
Both teams struggled shooting early combining to go just 1 for 8 from the field in the first three minutes. Jaxon Betker, who finished with a team high 23 for Central got things going with a 3-ball.
Sophomore Caiden Gourley would open the scoring for Danville with a couple of free throws. Gourley would convert a bucket and add a couple more free throws for the Bears only first quarter points as they shot a dismal 1-11 early on.
Central’s Kaleb Sanders had a nice tip in around the rim off a Betker miss, and then Betker followed up with another 3-ball to help get the Hawks to an 11-6 lead at the end of one.
Betker would be the only Hawk to convert a field goal in the second period, but Bronson Sargent, Seth Mayes, and Alex Sandoval would all get to the free throw line for some points.
Danville was contending with a wicked lid on the basket at the other end, a lid that would come back to haunt the Hawks in the final minutes.
The Bears converted on just 1 of 9 from the field in the second quarter, for chilly 10% shooting percentage in the first half allowing the Hawks to hold a 24-15 first-half lead.
Changing sides in the second half seemed to take the curse off the bucket for the Bears, but put it squarely on the Hawks.
Danville would come out and score 23 points, 12 from junior Ty Carr, in the third period prompting Swanson to get a little loud at the break.
“There are so many positives to take away, but they just get overshadowed by these silly mistakes that we make that allow the other team to score 23 points in the 3rd quarter,” he said after the game.
The Hawks’ shot just 3 of 12 in the third period allowing the Bears to erase a nine-point halftime lead and take a 36-35 lead going into the final period.
The hosts would stretch that lead to 43-27 on a bucket from junior Sawyer Nelson. Nelson would turn around and foul Betker on the next trip up the floor, but the senior would miss both ends of the bonus.
Carr would convert on the other end on a floating jumper from about four feet for a 45-37 lead. Carr would score again and then Sargent would score five straight including a 3-pointer from in front of the Hawks bench to cut the lead to three, prompting a Danville timeout with a 1:24 left.
Carr would go to the free throw line eight times in the final minute and convert on six. Central again had the yips at the other end going just 1 of 5 down the stretch and missed two free throws in the mix as Danville slipped away with the win.
“It’s the mentality. It’s what it takes offensively and defensively and we’re just not there yet,” Swanson said.
“And that’s frustrating because you see the first half and we played so well and then trip over our own feet.
“It’s a learning thing and we can get there. I have 100% faith in my boys and I know they want to get there. It just takes time.”
After Betker’s 23, Sargent had eight, Dylan Stuecker scored six, Sandoval had four, while Sanders and Mayes each chipped in with three.
Carr lead all scorers with 25 for the Bears.
The 1-3 Hawks host Keokuk at home on Saturday in boy/girls, jv/varsity four-game set.