Posted On: 11/28/17 10:52 AM
Behind an eye-popping performance from senior guard Derrick Diggins, Cedar Rapids Kennedy held off a game Dubuque Wahlert squad to pull out a season-opening 68-56 win on Monday night. Despite both teams being from the MVC, this was played as a non-conference game, as they play in different divisions and neither team was able to fill their five allotted non-conference games.
It was all about Jack Wetzel for the Cougars early on, as he scored the team’s first five points of the night and finished with eight first quarter points. Diggins got it going late in the quarter, then exploded for 18 second quarter points as Kennedy took a 35-28 lead into the half.
The second half was more of the same, with Wahlert routinely cutting the Kennedy lead down to four, but never getting any closer. Anytime they made a run, Kennedy answered back quickly, and more often than not, with Diggins, who finished with a career-high 41 points (two shy of the school record). Wetzel added 12 in the win. Wahlert (0-1) was led by Craig Collins and Peter Timmerman, who each had 17 points. Matt Bandy chipped in 11 in the loss.
Below are five takeaways we had from Kennedy’s season-opening win.
|Cedar Rapids Kennedy||16||19||16||17||68|
Dubuque Wahlert: Craig Collins 17, Peter Timmerman 17, Matt Bandy 11, Jackson Jaeger 5, Jacob Schockemoehl 5, Cael Schmitt 1
Cedar Rapids Kennedy: Derrick Diggins 41, Jack Wetzel 12, Jackson Foley 5, Ki Jenkins 4, Cole Werling 2, Ethan Sailer 2, Benjamin Koester 2
Derrick Diggins was a man possessed
Obviously any time a player scores a career high, and comes close to breaking a school record, it’s the best we’ve seen them play. But Diggins was outstanding in this game, notching his 41 points on only 21 shots from the floor (10-16 2P, 4-5 3P, 9-11 FT). He scored in a variety of ways, showing off his range from deep, knocking down a few mid-range jumpers, and using his explosive first step to get to the rim and score. He probably even left six or eight points out there, missing a few layups. However, where he really shined was with his all-around game. He pulled down 11 rebounds and was incredibly active on the defensive end all night. When he’s engaged on the defensive end, he can turn it into instant offense and spark himself that way. If he’s engaged and playing hard on both ends of the floor, there are few players in the state with the ability to slow him down. He seems to have matured and will be one of the best players in the MVC this season.
Jon McKowen is one of the best defensive coaches the state has seen in recent years
Kennedy’s fifth year head coach is an outstanding defensive coach who makes life incredibly tough on his opponents with his constant switches of that defense the Cougars are using. One possession you may see a straight man, the next they may jump into a halfcourt trap, the next a zone. You just never know what is coming from the Cougars, and that’s a big reason they’ve been so successful during his time at Kennedy. He also really gets his kids to buy into playing hard, and flying around, on the defensive end of the floor, which isn’t always the easiest thing to do at the high school level. He’s not afraid to take a kid out even if he’s only been on the floor for a few seconds if that kid makes a mistake on the defensive end. He pulls them, talks to them about what was done incorrectly, then gets them back in there quickly. He’s a great defensive teacher and watching him play chess throughout the game is fun to watch.
Kennedy needs a second scorer to step up
Kennedy players not named Derrick Diggins shot just 10-34 from the floor in this game. Diggins is a phenomenal player and scorer, but someone will need to become a consistent second option for the Cougars to take some of the pressure off. Maybe that player is Jack Wetzel. He got off to a quick start, scoring eight first quarter points, but was quiet the rest of the evening. Maybe that player is Jackson Foley, a quick point guard who didn’t shoot it well in this game but was a 44% shooter from deep last year. Drake Brewster graduated, and when the Cougars needed a bucket last year, they went to either him or Diggins. If I had to bet on someone to step up, it’d be Wetzel. At 6-4, he has the ability to score inside and out. This team moved the ball well and got a lot of different players involved (ten played in the first quarter alone), but it’d be nice to have a consistent second option who you know can score when Diggins is on the bench.
Wahlert’s Peter Timmerman looks improved
Wahlert’s leading returning scorer was just 5-16 from the floor, but he was much more assertive than we’ve seen him be before, which is something the Golden Eagles need out of him. He’s a versatile scoring threat who can score inside and out, and he’s arguably their best playmaker, a gifted passer who at 6-6 can see over the defense. He was in constant attack mode from the second quarter on and finished with a co-team high 17 points to go with six rebounds. If he’s able to put up similar numbers to those throughout the course of the year, Wahlert will be just fine.
The MVC is loaded
Each of these teams were pegged by us to finish fifth in their seven team divisions, and even after this game, I don’t think they are too low. This is the best the MVC has been, top-to-bottom, in the time I’ve been following the league (nearly 15 years). Both of these teams are capable of knocking off anyone on any given night, but it’s a testament to how strong the rest of the league is that we have them ranked so low in each division. Every night in the MVC is going to be a battle, and it should be incredibly fun to watch unfold.