Lightning strikes twice for Tigers
Exeter finds winning touch to reward hard work
There is no bigger cheerleader for the Exeter boys basketball team than Cory Duke, the team’s head coach.
Whether it be in practice or a game, Duke demands the absolute best from his team even if the end result is not a victory on the scoreboard.
The 2017-2018 campaign has been a transitional setting for the Tigers (2-15) and until last week, the team had been held without a victory.
On Wednesday against Wheaton, the Tigers found themselves in a familiar spot, down 7 points in the third quarter and on the verge of collapse.
“We made a choice to keep grinding in the third,” Duke said. “We took care of the basketball and hit our free throws. I was so proud how they persevered.”
The end result turned a 27-23 deficit to start the fourth quarter into a 45-36 victory.
The Tigers exploded for 22 points in the fourth quarter, led by junior guard Jared Alverson, who scored 11 of his game-high 17 points in the final eight minutes.
Exeter made 11 of its 12 free throws in the second half and was a perfect 6-for-6 in the final period.
“I can’t really express what this means,” Duke said. “I went into the locker room and got a little emotional. We’ve been fighting so hard, and I knew when I got here that this was going to be a rebuilding thing, a process. Sometimes, you go for so long you almost stop believing [that you can win].”
The win was one that Duke believed could set the tone for the team the remainder of the season.
“We got the monkey off our back,” Duke said. “There is a lot to say about a team that can finally get that win, and I really believe that it will propel us to a few in a row. As a coach, all you can ask is that your team be playing its best basketball at the end of the season.”
Less than 24 hours later, the Tigers hosted the Bulldogs again at home and earned their second win of the season in the form of a 55-43 victory. Exeter then fell to McAuley on Friday, 73-50.
The goal for the Tigers going forward is simple in concept, but will be up to the players to execute, according to Duke.
“First, we have to hit shots,” Duke said. “Tonight was a grind it out game. We only gave up 35 points, but probably only shot in the low 30 percent range ourselves. We have to get in the gym and shoot more and really excel behind the arc.”
Scoring for Exeter in the first win over Wheaton: Alverson, 17; Ethan Caddell, 11; Austin Rayburn, 10; Jacob Foster, 6; and Chad Meyer, 1.
Exeter traveled to Southwest on Tuesday. Results were not available at press time. The Tigers travel to Chadwick on Friday. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.