CORTLAND - Whatever took possession of Niles McKinley's basketball team in the first quarter, Dragons coach Ron Price would like to bottle it and sprinkle it on about 18 more games this season.
The Dragons played at a different pace and with strikingly different results than the Lakeview Bulldogs in opening an 18-point lead at the end of the quarter. Shooting with uncanny accuracy from the perimeter and forcing the Bulldogs into 12 turnovers in the period, the Dragons had a 22-1 lead before settling into a more normal style of play.
By then the hole dug by the Bulldogs had grown to the size of a moon crater. Niles cooled off quite a bit the rest of the way, but the Dragons still managed an easy 55-38 win Tuesday.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Lakeview’s Brandon Bensing (10) dives after the ball and keeps it in play as Niles’ Jimmy Mullen defends during the third quarter of their game Tuesday night.
"We really rebounded and caused some havoc with the pressure," Price said. "To come out and jump on them like that on the road was outstanding."
Senior guard Ray Russ was the star of the first period for the Dragons, scoring 15 of his game-high 26 points. Russ pulled off a rare feat, recording two four-point plays in the same quarter.
"I just hit my shots. That's all," Russ said. "I just came out aggressive. My shots were falling."
Bulldogs coach Craig Mild couldn't find much to be happy about. Lakeview (1-3) continues to struggle running its offense. Coupled that with poor shooting from the field (10-of-45) and from the foul line (16-of-37), and there was no way the Bulldogs were going to make it a close game.
"We don't take care of the ball," Mild said. "We preach taking care of the ball, and they didn't do it. You have to give them (the Dragons) credit. They came out and wanted it a little more than we did. Our hats are off to Niles. They wanted it and we didn't. They showed that in the first quarter."
The Dragons (3-1) had a 7-3 lead when they went on a 15-point run. Trailing 25-7 after the first quarter, the Bulldogs took advantage of a less-efficient Dragons' attack to keep the score from getting out of hand. Lakeview trailed 41-24 at halftime and 52-29 after three quarters.
Both teams struggled from the field and at the line in the second half. The Dragons made just three field shots in the half, while the Bulldogs connected on two two-pointers and one three-point shot.
"The ball wouldn't go in," Price said. "They played hard; give them credit. They want to drive and rebound it. We need to do a better job of boxing out and quit fouling. There were so many fouls we couldn't get into a flow."
Niles had a 39-38 rebounding advantage, led by Justin Lopes with eight. Brandon Bensing paced the Bulldogs under the boards with nine rebounds. Justin Journey had nine points to pace Lakeview in scoring.
"We want to finish our shots, box out and stop drives," Price said. "Those are three key things for us."
The plan going forward for Mild is to go back to the basics. The Dragons caused some damage with their pressure defense in the first quarter, but the Bulldogs did their share of damage with sloppy passing.
"It's just us being out of control," Mild said. "We got our guys in position, but we just get out of control. We need to get our fundamentals back to where they need to be. Catching, squaring and being strong with the basketball."
Lakeview is at Campbell Memorial Friday. Niles hosts Brookfield the same night.