Watson Chapel’s Jalen Courtney shoots over De Queen’s Quinn Smith on Friday. (Special to The Commercial/Mike Adam)
Watson Chapel was just granted hosting rights to this year’s 5A state basketball tournaments. And Watson Chapel doesn’t want to be left out.
The Wildcats broke into the win column in 5A-South play Friday night with the help of a stingy full-court press, knocking off De Queen 62-19 at home.
Charles Owens, who led the Wildcats with 16 points, said Chapel’s hosting rights motivated them to break their early conference slump.
“We knew going in 0-2 (in the conference) we had to get a good conference win,” the senior swingman said.
Watson Chapel (6-9, 1-2 in 5A-South) went on a 20-0 rally over an 8-minute period to lead 51-14. De Queen (3-8, 0-3) scored its first points of the third quarter with 1:19 left to break the run, but the basket was only two of five second-half points the Leopards scored.
“Our kids played hard,” Wildcats coach Matt Busch said. “They played selfless. They took charges. We had our best two days of practice we had all year. I looked at (assistant) coach (Mark) Elliott and asked him to go find our team because that wasn’t them.
“That’s a joke.”
The Wildcats controlled the offensive glass despite playing against a 2-1-2 zone and forced the Leopards into multiple turnovers with their press. The second-chance points and points off De Queen miscues allowed Watson Chapel expand a 14-8 first-quarter lead, and Owens scored 10 points in the second quarter to help the Wildcats build a 33-14 halftime lead.
“I couldn’t do it without my team,” Owens said. “It starts with the assists. The guards did a really good of passing the ball in the post, and the posts did a good job rebounding. And coach Busch did a good job calling on ‘100 Press’. It was just all-around good effort.”
Tevin Brown added 10 points and Jalen Courtney had nine for Watson Chapel. Danny Henderson led De Queen with nine points.
Both Watson Chapel and De Queen lost games to Camden Fairview and Hot Springs Lakeside going into Friday night. Following the loss to Watson Chapel, coach Jody Cowart said he thinks his team has seen the top three ballclubs in the conference.
“I say they’ll be in the top tier, anyway,” he said.
Watson Chapel has road trips to Hot Springs and Hope next week before hosting White Hall on Jan. 22. The Hot Springs game will be the first meeting between Busch and his former assistant Rodney Echols.