The Mustang basketball team improved to 3-8 in the South Central Conference with a big win over Knoxville on Feb. 97. The Mustangs came from behind to beat the Panthers 52-48.

The Panthers were without leading scorer Kieren Nichols in this game and the Mustangs took advantage of the Panthers’ misfortune down the stretch. Nichols averages 26.8 points per game and without him in the lineup, the Panthers struggled to stay ahead of the Mustangs.

Knoxville beat Davis County 79-41 in December. Since that time, the Mustangs have improved tremendously and the game experience has served them well as the season has progressed.

It is true that without Nichols, Knoxville struggled offensively, but we can’t overlook the fact that an improved Mustang team had something to do with those struggles and the fact that the Mustangs walked away with the victory.

Dalton Reeves was a big factor in the victory as he took it to the Panthers inside and was aggressive all night long. Knoxville struggled to keep up with the quickness of the Mustangs in this game and seemed to be a step behind all night long.

Reeves finished the night with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Knoxville just didn’t have a defensive answer to Reeves who led the Mustang scoring efforts.

Noah Zmolek didn’t finish in double figures, but his nine points were possibly more important than the 23 scored by Reeves.

Zmolek has struggled with his shooting for the past couple of weeks and has been noticeably frustrated that he has been unable to produce at the same level he had been scoring in December and early January. The last time Zmolek scored in double figures was his 10-point performance against Washington on Jan. 21. In the four games prior to the game with Knoxville, Zmolek just couldn’t get things going.

As the game with Knoxville began, Zmolek’s frustrations continued. He was getting good shots. He just wasn’t getting them to fall. Fouls and aggressive defensive play have been a factor in keeping Zmolek off the scoreboard, but something changed during this game.

As the Mustangs went into the half-time break, Zmolek’s only points came on a single free throw midway through the first quarter. Several shot attempts didn’t fall despite the fact that Zmolek was doing his job on the boards.

In the second half, Zmolek again missed a shot, but took advantage of the foul shots to score a couple of points early. After a defensive stop, Zmolek scored on a fast-break layup and the confidence seemed to start coming back. From that point on, Zmolek played with a renewed fire in his belly. He was more aggressive on both ends of the court, and he used his quickness to out-play a Knoxville team that was struggling to find its identity without Nichols in the lineup.

Zmolek finished with just nine points, but those nine points were some of the most important points of the game. Knoxville found a way to slow down the scoring of Reeves in the second half. That’s when Zmolek picked up the slack and used those nine points to help Davis County to a much needed conference victory.

Zmolek did finish in double figures in rebounding. He led the team with 14 rebounds. He and Reeves pulled down 24 of the team’s 30 rebounds in the game.

Davis County jumped out to an early 8-2 lead behind Reeves' early success. Knoxville finished the quarter with three straight three-pointers, which pushed the Panthers to a 14-13 lead.

Reeves and Alex Lynch put Davis County back on top as the Mustang defense secured some important defensive stops. A scoring run put Davis County up 19-16, but the Panthers again finished out the half with another scoring run with long range shots. Knoxville led 26-21 at the break.

Once Zmolek got his confidence back, He and the Mustangs went to work in the second half. Aside from a couple of three-point shots, Davis County held Knoxville to just 14 third-quarter points. Shots from Zmolek and Caedyn Glosser late in the quarter helped Davis County keep the Knoxville lead at a manageable 40-36 difference going into the final eight minutes of play.

By this time, foul trouble was causing problems for an already short-handed Knoxville lineup. Davis County took advantage of Knoxville’s troubles. A fast-break layup by Carson Zeitler with 6:25 left to play put the Mustangs up by one point. Reeves was able to get his offensive rhythm back as well. With the Mustangs running full strength, they jumped out to a 46-42 lead with 4:19 left to play.

Eventually, the Panthers battled back to tie the game at 48-48. Two key players fouled out for Knoxville in the closing minutes. That sent both Reeves and Glosser to the line in the final minute. Those two boys went four-of-four shooting from the line to push Davis County to its 52-48 win.

“This was a big win for our team. We were really happy for the guys and how they competed against Knoxville. We started off really strong but then seemed to lose momentum,” said Coach Jamie Cason of his team. “We kept chipping away in the fourth and finally closed the game out.

“Dalton Reeves did a great job helping us get the win. I was also proud of how Noah struggled early, but turned things around. He made some big plays for us down the stretch. This was a much needed win for our team,” said Cason. 

Score by quarters

K      14    26    40    48

DC    13    21    36    52

Scoring—Reeves, 23; Noah Zmolek, 9; Caedyn Glosser, 8; Alex Lynch, 5; Carson Maeder, 4 and Ivan Garcia, 1.

Rebounds—Zmolek, 14; Reeves, 10; Glosser, 3; Lynch, 2; and Garcia, 1.

Assists—Garcia, 5; Glosser, 2; Carson Zeitler, 1 and Zmolek, 1.

Steals—Glosser, 3; Lynch, 2; Reeves, 2 and Zmolek, 1.