By Blake Long/Special to the Journal
BALDWYN – Shannon coach Cedric Brim hasn’t seen a shooter like Ashland’s Darius Dukes in a long time.
“Man, he’s incredible,” Brim said after watching Dukes score 39 points against his Red Raiders. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen somebody shoot the ball like that.”
Shannon would overcome Dukes’ incredible game to defeat the Blue Devils 68-56 in the opening game of the 2011 Nelson “Doc” Vandiver Classic.
Even facing a double team at times in the second half, Dukes would hit ten 3-point baskets, five in each half, to help Ashland stay within range of Shannon.
“Even with the double team, he can still make those shots,” Ashland coach Kenji Wells said. “Our biggest problem is we don’t know what to do with it. Outside of him, I’ve got ninth and tenth graders.”
Dukes, who entered the game averaging 31 points per outing, just missed his fourth 40-point game of the season.
“If you watch us, everybody knows the balls gonna go to him,” Wells said of Dukes, who is being recruited by Austin Peay State among others. “Most of the time he’s gonna have to look to shoot.”
The Red Raiders did a great job holding the rest of the young Blue Devils (4-9), with their second leading scorer only having four points.
After the Blue Devils scored the first basket of the game, Shannon’s Lakee Westbrook, who finished with 23 points, led Shannon on an 8-0 run over the next three minutes.
Leading 18-16 after the first, Shannon’s Javon Green would find his stride in the second. Two straight threes along with a pair of free throws from Green to open the quarter would up the Red Raiders lead to double digits.
Shannon (7-1) would bolster their lead to thirteen at 36-23 with a minute before halftime, but two Dukes three’s cut the Red Raiders lead to 36-29 at the break.
Ashland would cut the lead as close as 56-48 with 5:02 to play on a Dalquince Scruggs basket, but two straight free throws by Green (20 points) would give the Red Raiders a double-digit lead for good.