— Joe Morelli (@nhrJoeMorelli) January 16, 2018
BRIDGEPORT — It takes a lot to please Career boys basketball coach Larry Kelley. He has high expectations, as most coaches do of their respective programs.
Now if the Panthers could play every quarter like they did in the fourth quarter Monday afternoon, Kelley would find little to complain about. Career turned a close game into a runaway, defeating Harding 69-47 at Webster Bank Arena in the fourth annual MLK Classic.
“I was very happy with the fourth quarter,” Kelley said. “We started to play a little bit more defense and execute better like we know how to do and don’t forget, this is a team that hasn’t been together too long. We have two or three people who are new. It’s taking time to find our niche.”
Career (6-2), winners of four straight, will need more performances like the fourth quarter with a game Wednesday against New Haven rival and 10th-ranked Wilbur Cross on Wednesday.
Game MVP Jordan Williams had seven of his 18 points in the fourth for Career, which led by just three through three quarters. Then the Panthers hit the Presidents (3-5) with a 15-2 run to blow the game open.
“We played a lot better than those first two quarters,” Williams said. Career had 13 first-half turnovers. “We came together as a team rather than play as individuals.”
Kyle Daniels also had 18 points while Tamar Williams added 11 for the Panthers, who scored 29 points in the fourth.
“When you are right there, you have to do the little things to stay in there, get back on defense, helping one another,” Harding coach John Bagley said. “We gave up too many layups, too many easy baskets and open jump shots. There is just a lot to learn.”
Before Tra’Vel Upchurch (team-high 11 points) made Harding’s first basket of the quarter with 3:23 remaining, Career had established a 55-39 lead. Two minutes later, the lead was up to 20.
“They listened a little bit more,” Kelley said of his players “Our big people (Jordan Williams and Jalen Jones) were much more prominent.”
So in total, Harding had just three field goals and 10 points in the final quarter.
“(Career) sustained their efforts and they have a few shooters,” Bagley said. “They made outside shots. We have to know what the next man is supposed to do. We have to get that back. We can’t be concerned about what we do individually, but what we do collectively.”
The lead changed hands seven times in the latter stages of the second quarter before being tied at 22 at halftime.
Career went up by as many as nine in the third quarter before Harding closed that gap to three. But the Presidents couldn’t answer again in the final quarter.
Career 69, Harding 47
CAREER10 19 11 29—69
HARDING8 14 15 10—47
Keith Bush 3 0-0 6, David Council 1 0-0 3, Zamir Hairston 5 0-0 10, Cordel Walker 0 1-2 1, Tion Hampton 0 1-2 1, Tra’Vel Upchurch 3 5-8 11, Markis Christie 2 1-2 5, John Hypolite 1 0-0 2, Josue Rivera Pacheco 3 0-0 6, Tae’Ron Womack 1 0-0 2. Totals 19 8-14 47.
Tamar Williams 5 0-0 11 Jalen Jones 3 2-5 8 Jordan Williams 6 6-7 18, Kyle Daniels 8 0-1 18, Saveeon Avery 0 1-5 1, Nathaniel Morrison 2 3-4 7 D’Andre Brown 1 0-0 2, Jayden Davis 1 0-0 2, Tyler McCarthy 1 0-0 2. Totals 26 12-22 69.
3-point goals: Career-Daniels 2, T. Williams 1; Harding-Council 1; Fouled Out: none.