By Steve Ruman
Friday’s game between Hubbard and Niles included a pregame ceremony recognizing the 2002-03 Red Dragons team which went 18-5 and set numerous school scoring records.
The current cast of Dragons — wearing throwback jerseys to honor their predecessors — then went out and played like a team aiming to establish its own legacy.
Niles used a 24-point second quarter to pull away from the Eagles, and was never threatened from that point on in a 68-40 win.
The Dragons (6-2, 2-0 All-American Conference American Division) have already doubled their win total of a year ago.
“I’m very happy with the way we got at it tonight,” Niles coach Ron Price said. “We played hard, and we maintained our intensity.
“Our kids did a nice job of keeping the pressure on Hubbard once they grabbed the lead.”
Niles senior Ray Russ led all scorers with 19 points. Kymone Gamble scored 12 points while James Tate added 10 points and 9 rebounds.
Hubbard (1-5, 1-2) was paced by Jordan Thompson’s 10 points. Isaiah Scott pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds.
The Eagles were without the services of seniors Darnell Tate and Aaron Loveless.
Niles hit the offensive boards early on to take a 15-12 lead after one quarter of play. The Red Dragons scored eight of their first 12 points on putbacks.
The home team then padded its lead in the early stages of the second quarter when Russ, Gamble, Chris Parry and Jimmy Mullen scored baskets on four consecutive Hubbard turnovers.
The Eagles gave the ball away eight times in the period, and trailed 39-20 at halftime.
“The last three games, we’ve committed turnover after turnover, and it has cost us dearly,” Hubbard coach Rick Fox said. “Niles did a very nice job of setting traps.
“Their quickness and their strong play hurt us,” Fox said. “But we also put ourselves in one bad position after another. We have to correct our mistakes.”
Niles outscored Hubbard 11-2 to close out the first half. The Dragons scored the first nine points of the third quarter to put the game out of reach.
Russ scored nine points after the break, and was one of 10 Niles players to score in the second half.
“A lot of what we do on offense is determined by what we do defensively,” Price said. “Our defensive play gave us a lot of scoring opportunities tonight.”
The Red Dragons return to action tonight with a road game against Warren Harding. It’s the first matchup in several decades between the neighboring schools.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to go up against a program that has been on top for a long time,” Price said. “Our kids are excited to see how they stack up. I hope we’re ready.”