The door was open, but Derby couldn’t step through.
Looking to break a string of consecutive losses (now seven) to their AVCTL-I rival, the Panthers (7-7, 4-5 in league) were unable to strike against the visiting Colts, 76-67. Coach Brett Flory’s crew cut their deficit within two possessions six times in the second half, but couldn’t close the gap.
Juniors Jameer Clemons and Fontaine Williams each scored 20 points to lead Derby. It also saw Amari Thomas reach double figures with a 12-point game.
Stevie Strong led Campus with 22 points, including 11 in the first quarter.
“It’s frustrating because we for sure had our chances,” Flory said. “It was one of those deals where we’d have them on the ropes for a minute. They’d throw some desperation shots, hit them and we didn’t take advantage when we had them on the ropes.”
Derby was forced to bounce out of a funk from the get-go, trailing 8-0 three minutes in and seeing its opposition drain five 3s in the first quarter. While it only hit three over the next 24 minutes, a string of missed free throws and shots inside of six feet hampered its hopes of an upset.
After Clemons hit the front and back end of a three-point play, Derby’s deficit fell to 50-46 with 2:00 left in the third quarter. The ensuing possession led to a personal and technical foul from Campus guard Jayden Hall. It started a run of five missed free throws for Derby and a bit of frustration began to kick in.
Instead of a five-point lead, the Panthers trailed by two going into the fourth quarter.
“That was an opportunity to put seven points on the board and have a lead,” Flory said. “That’s living and learning. They know and feel bad about it. All you can do is to learn from it. When you play a great team, you have to finish when you have a chance.”
Strong caught fire in the final quarter, scoring six of Campus’ first eight points and helping push Derby’s deficit to 11 points with 4:14 to go.
“We had a little fatigue early in the game, but that being said, we can’t let them have clean looks,” Flory said. “If Stevie is over half court, it’s a clean look right there. We had one or two where our hands were down and that part of it was on us.”
vs. Campus (Feb. 19)—
CAMPUS: 27 9 14 26— 76
DERBY: 14 17 17 19— 67
COLTS: Strong 22, Chapman 18, Hall 8, Sosa 8, Young 8, Burton 7, Sutter 3, Dixon 2.
PANTHERS: Clemons 20, Williams 20, Thomas 12, Ray 6, Barger 4, Chadwick 3, Parke 2.