Locked in yet another close battle in the final minutes of a Rock Valley Conference boys basketball game Thursday night, Beloit Turner sophomore Dai’Vontrelle Strong snapped into action.
Admittedly, the 6-foot-5 post player was not aggressive enough in the first half at Brodhead, and with less than six minutes remaining, his team trailed by two points.
Strong’s first of three consecutive layups helped Turner tie the game, and he had put-back buckets on the Trojans’ next two possessions that gave his team the lead for good and paved the way to an 82-71 victory.
Turner won its fourth straight game to get to 5-1 overall and 3-1 in the RVC—tied for second place. Brodhead fell to 3-3 and 2-2.
“I came out a little soft in the first half, and the coaches were talking to me. I needed to be stronger,” Strong said. “So when I saw we were down, I just knew I had to get in there and get it done somehow.”
In a back-and-forth affair that featured 10 ties and four lead changes, Strong’s work on the offensive glass started a 13-1 run to close the game.
Senior guard Sereno Ferone made 6 of 6 free throws in the closing minutes to put the game on ice, and he and Strong finished with 17 points apiece.
“Dai’Vontrelle was huge. He is so good, and I’m on the poor kid’s case all the time because he’s so good, and I don’t think he realizes just how dominant he can be,” Turner coach Ken Watkins said. “When he decides he’s going to go to the basket or go get a rebound, he just goes and does it.
“DJ Wash was really good off the ball (defensively), helping us get some strips and being present to get those late steals. And Sereno down the stretch, he didn’t miss.”
Turner also had a run at the end of the first half that Watkins said was critical. Brodhead led 40-34, but Trojans junior Steve Dillard (team-high 23 points) made one of his seven 3-pointers, Strong followed with a steal and pair of foul shots and Ferone had a steal and layup—all in the final minute—to give Turner a halftime lead.
Brodhead regained the lead with 10 minutes left when Parker Johnson (16 points) made one of his four 3s. The Cardinals were up 67-63 with seven minutes left after senior Brekan Day—who scored a game-high 28 points—drove in for a bucket.
“We’ve had stretches where we play really well, and stretches where we don’t,” Brodhead coach Nick Jarvis said. “When we play the way we’re capable, we play pretty good basketball.”
“We gave up four or five straight possessions where we gave up an offensive rebound and putback,” Jarvis added, discussing the final few minutes against Turner. “And that was the difference, really.”
The story for Turner so far this year has been its ability to win at the end of close games. The Trojans sprung a second-half comeback to win a nonconference game at Marshall on Monday after Dillard’s buzzer-beater 3-pointer downed Evansville on Friday. They also opened the season with a two-point victory at Rockford Christian.
“I think so far this year, I’ve probably shaved about five years off my life,” Watkins said. “But if it means we get a couple more wins, that’s a sacrifice I’ll make.”
TURNER 82, BRODHEAD 71
Turner (82)—Ferone 5-6-17, Dillard 8-0-23, Reyes 6-1-13, Wash 3-0-7, Strong 7-3-17, Tinder 1-2-4, Majeed 0-1-1. Totals: 30-13-82.
Brodhead (71)—Tway 7-0-16, McGinty 1-1-4, Day 12-3-28, Johnson 5-2-16, Van Whye 1-1-3, Riemer 1-0-3, Baker 0-1-1. Totals: 27-8-71.
Beloit Turner 41 41—82
Brodhead 40 31—71
Three-point goals—Turner 9 (Dillard 7, Ferone, Wash), Brodhead 9 (Johnson 4, Tway 2, McGinty, Day, Riemer). Free throws missed—Turner 7, Brodhead 5. Total fouls—Turner 15, Brodhead 19.