Rustin freshman torches Blue Demons in Kennett's 64-40 loss
● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw, Staff Writer
At first glance, perhaps the only distinguishing feature about Bayard Rustin center Jake Nelson is his height. He pokes northward to an angular six feet, six inches, but there, the physical factor ends. He is not terribly gifted with bulk, does not run very fast, and his on-court demeanor is that of a skinny apology, bashfully making its way up and down the court.
Something happens, however, when he touches a basketball.
For the entirety of Rustin's commanding 64-40 win over hapless Kennett on Monday night, Nelson torched the Blue Demons with a left-handed shot that seems woven from silk, and an inside game that relied on good positioning rather than wide-body preening. Nelson displayed a hushed confidence that quietly killed the Blue Demons, a performance that defied the fact that he is only in his freshman year. From start to finish, Nelson showed that his true gift is his ability to score both sides of the lane, which he used to penetrate the basket and get to the foul line, where he scored 8 of his game-high 22 points.
Along the way, he had some helping hands.
Three three-pointers by Bryce Barrouk kicked the Golden Knights off to a 22-8 lead at the end of the first quarter, while it held Kennett playmaker Connor McGlone to only one free throw. By the end of the first half, McGlone remained scoreless, the victim of a swarming trap defense installed by Rustin coach Keith Cochran that closed off any offensive threat the Blue Demons attempted.
Down 32-21 at the start of the third quarter, coach Brian Urig's squad slowly began to carve into Rustin's lead, beginning with a three-point play by Matthew Kelly early in the quarter, quickly followed by two free throws by Kelly that brought Kennett to within six points. With 3:23 left in the quarter, Tyler Nunn was fouled and made one of two free throws, narrowing Rustin's lead to five points, but it was there that the comeback collapsed, as Kennett was not able to convert outside shots, layups and free throws in a frustrating stretch that was accompanied by a slew of turnovers. Given the opportunity to expand his repertoire, Nelson did, scoring 8 points in the third quarter and converting 5 of 6 free throws in the fourth, while holding his counterpart, 6' 8" Kennett center Parker Leto, to just one basket in the fourth quarter.
Nelson's effort was supported by an outstanding floor game engineered by guard Tyler Ramirez, who scored 13 points, Barrouk with 9 points, and freshman forward Tajir Asparagus, who scored 8 points. Kennett was led by Kelly's 12 points.
The win gave the Golden Knights (3-6 overall) a much-needed boost on their season, while Kennett plummeted its overall record to 1-6. The Golden Knights host Octorara on Jan. 7, while on the same day, Kennett travels to Oxford.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.