Indian Creek continues winning ways

The first couple basketball games after the winter break can be unattractive grind-it-out contests, but earning wins now pays off greatly by the end of the season.

Indian Creek appreciates that grind, and is continuing to stay hot early. Malik McKinney had 22 points and five rebounds and Khalil Williams added six points and 11 rebounds as part of a strong defensive effort in a 66-51 MIAA B Conference victory over visiting St. John’s Catholic Prep.

“This is a good win, but we have to clean it up,” Indian Creek coach Josh Pratt said. “We want to play our best basketball in February, and teams are ratcheting it up. I was worried about this game. They are good team with some good shooters.”

Both teams struggled to score early, with shots clanging off the front or the back of the rim. McKinney had seven points in the first quarter as the Eagles (10-0) extended the lead late in the quarter from four to nine points, 17-8.

“We were focusing on what we have been doing in practice, and we are getting out there and doing that,” said Williams, who also did an admirable job on the Vikings’ top scorer, Brycen Hill, particularly in the first half. “It was about keeping our hands out, finding shooters and getting out there.”

Ty Collins had eight of his 18 points in the second quarter for St. John’s (7-5), but poor shooting, combined with Indian Creek’s 14-for-14 first- half free throw shooting performance, resulted in a 37-21 deficit at the half.

“We have had an issue with getting going early all year,” St. John’s coach Tim Abercrombie said. “We just seem like we are a little flat and not ready to go. We are a young team and kind of immature in that way, but we just do a little too little too late.”

Hill loosened up in the third quarter as the Vikings had five 3-pointers in the period, accounting for all their field goals. McKinney had eight more points in the period however, and St. John’s could only make a little headway.

“I think we got comfortable with our lead and let them work their way back into the game a little bit, and we just had to stop being complacent,” McKinney said. “Teams are going to give us their all the entire game, so we finally manned up and kept them from scoring at crucial times.”

The Vikings got within 10 in the fourth quarter, getting as close as 52-42. Hill had two more 3-pointers and had 16 of his 18 points, equaling his season average, in the second half. Aaron White added 10 points and nine rebounds for St. John’s.

“We were making toughness plays in the second half that we just were not doing enough of in the first half,” Abercrombie said. “We won our first three league games (St. Mary’s, Friends and Curley) by taking the lead and holding on at the end. We need to get better at battling adversity, as well as getting fired up earlier in the game. We don’t want to be down 10 to 15 points before we respond.”

Evan Rakshys and Khiyon Washington had eight points apiece for Indian Creek, while Jordan Lewis had seven points and Cole Washington and Bryce Collier added six points apiece.

“We only had one guy in double figures and, if you look at our other games, we normally have three or four,” Pratt said. “If you have three in double figures, that normally means good balance.”

The Eagles are down to eight players, as Ian Green is out on concussion protocol. That means a lot of minutes for those playing, but discipline at both ends of the court is necessary.

“I am a feel coach, and it can be a lot with eight guys,” Pratt said. “It is time management and understanding your players, and you need to keep them fresh.”

A big key down the stretch will be the continued growth of Williams, who has the potential to be a regular double-double guy for Indian Creek.

“I have challenged him a little bit,” Pratt said. “We have had conversations before and after practice. He defers to Malik, but everyone is keying on Malik now. They box-and-one and try to take him out, so Khalil needs to step up. He was more aggressive tonight than what I have seen, so that was very nice to see.”

St. John’s Catholic Prep (7-5) 8 13 15 15 51

Indian Creek (10-0) 17 20 14 15 66

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