One of the focuses entering this winter for McDonogh forward Jared Billups was to develop himself into a leader by example for his teammates.
If the opening two games of the season are any indication, he’s well on his way.
Building on a double-double in a season-opening win over Concordia Prep, Billups registered a team-high 18 points to go along with eight rebounds Wednesday evening to keep the Eagles momentum going in the right direction with a 59-53 road victory over Friends.
“We need a leader and that’s what I want to be this season,” Billups said. “I want to lead the team and if you lead the team, they follow right behind.”
It’s the second straight season that McDonogh (2-0) has defeated the Quakers (0-1) by six points in a November matchup, with the Eagles winning last year’s contest 56-50.
Billups ended up going 6-13 from the field, including 1-2 from 3-point range. He added three assists, two blocks and two steals.
Though McDonogh started off cold from beyond the arc, going 1-4 in the first quarter, the team finished off going 2-3 in the fourth. Evverette Cooper made three of the six threes he attempted on his way to a 16-point performance.
McDonogh head coach T.J. Jordan said finding a shooting rhythm in the early going has been a priority.
“We shoot a lot in practice, but we always talk about game shots because it’s different just shooting and going through the motions in practice than getting them in the game” Jordan said.
“In the beginning they weren’t necessarily falling for us, but we talk about shooting with confidence, continuing to have that composure, maintaining that composure and then those shots started to fall for us. So, that was a huge part of it and we’ve got to keep that going.”
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The game remained close the entire way, with each team trading buckets. McDonogh lead 11-9 in the first quarter, before taking a 25-23 lead into the half. At the end of the third, McDonogh led 39-36, before holding on down the stretch. McDonogh’s largest lead was 14 points midway through the second quarter.
Jaden Derry led Friends with 17 points in 32 minutes and five others scored for the Quakers.
Friends coach Kyle Harmon said afterward that he was impressed with his team’s fight down the stretch, but looks to improve on their miscues.
“All preseason we’ve been working on developing our culture, working on all of the minor details the best that we can,” said Harmon. “We’ve prepared for teams like this and we played them last year. They’re a really good team and it was the same result. We ended losing by six.
“We had a couple of bad turnovers at the end, but I like where we are at. I think we can certainly compete when we’re doing the things that we’re supposed to do. McDonogh is a great team, they’re well-coached and they found a way to pull it out in the end.”