Junior Edward Napper was kicked off the Watson Chapel basketball team last season after consistently breaking team rules.
“He just always had an excuse,” Watson Chapel head coach Matt Busch said.
But according to Busch, Napper came back this season a “different person.”
“I don’t know what he did in the summer, or who might have gotten a hold of him,” Busch said. “But he has really matured.
“He’s not the greatest basketball player in the world, but he would eat that floor if we asked him to. He does exactly what we ask.”
With the majority of Watson Chapel in foul trouble, including Jalen Courtney who picked up two quick fouls to start the game, Napper came into the game in the second half and scored eight points as the Wildcats defeated Hot Springs 48-37 Tuesday night at home.
“Napper comes in and scores eight points and takes two humongous charges,” Busch said. “That’s Nappy. That’s his role for us.
“Next year it will expand, but he knows he is only coming in if so and so gets in foul trouble.”
Watson Chapel (10-10, 5-4 5A-South) took a 28-22 lead when Napper scored on a hook shot with about 4 minutes left in the third quarter.
After a bucket from Jalen Courtney, Napper scored again to give the Wildcats an eight-point lead. By the end of the third quarter, Chapel was ahead 34-26.
Senior Demetrius Dukes led the Wildcats with 12 points.
“[Dukes] probably played 10 minutes all year last year as a junior,” Busch said. “This game was important to him.”
Busch said this is the first time Dukes had led the senior high in scoring.
“Dukes is fine of a young man as they come,” Busch said. “If my son was as polite, generous as Dukes, I would be proud.”
For Hot Springs (7-15, 5-4), Juwan Nero, who usually averages 25 points, led with 14 points.
Busch credited the defensive play of SanAntonio Cole, who held Nero to four points in the first three quarters.
“I told him, ‘If you hold him down, we have a chance to win.’” Busch said. “And until the fourth quarter, he did.”
Cole and Tevin Brown finished the game with eight points each.
Watson Chapel will play at De Queen on Friday, following the 5 p.m. girls game.