n a tournament like the Neosho Holiday Classic, often times games are determined by who wins the battle of the backcourts.

That definitely hold true during the Morrilton (Arkansas) Devil Dogs' 59-44 win Wednesday night over the Benjamin Banneker (New York) Warriors in the penultimate game of the first day of the 63rd annual Neosho Holiday Classic.

Morrilton guards Donald Jones (6-foot-2), Rasheed Washington (6-2), Xavier Wright (6-0), Jansen Bell (5-11), and Laken Dillard (5-10) had the foot speed and quickness to keep Benjamin Banneker water bug guards Gabriel Holley (5-7), Tajuan Simpkins (5-8), and Takari Simpkins (5-8) predominantly in check and conversely, take advantage of their competitive edges on the offensive end.

“We defended the basketball at a high level and I thought tonight we did a great job of limiting their penetration,” Morrilton head coach Keith Zackery said, “which is what they really want to do. Our guys were locked in on the defensive end tonight.”

Morrilton led 29-12 at halftime, allowing the team from Brooklyn six points in each quarter. The Warriors struggled during their first game in Neosho, making a mere 4 of 17 overall from the field in the first 16 minutes as they were hounded relentlessly by the Devil Dogs.

“This group has defended all year long,” Zackery said, “except for one or two basketball games. Our defense has been winning games for us. That’s just them four years into the system and they’re beginning to buy into the system, and it’s working for us right now.”

Jones led all scorers with 15 points and he tallied 14 rebounds, one of two players for each team who notched a double-double with 14 rebounds in the stat line. Washington and Wright netted 10 points apiece for the Devil Dogs.

John James put together a double-double for Benjamin Banneker with 11 points and 14 rebounds. Kesly Young provided a bench spark with 12 points and Hailey added 11 points, as Benjamin Banneker produced 32 points after halftime, including 21 in the final quarter.

Zackery, head coach of a tournament perennial in Morrilton, talked about why the Devil Dogs return to Neosho year after year.

“This is a tremendous event and the kids love coming here,” he said. “I love coming. It’s a great four days of basketball to play and to watch, and for us, I mean, it brings us back to 2018 and our conference play being able to give us pride. We call it our momentum push going into the new year. It’s great for us. We love it.”

Zackery said Wednesday night marked the first time playing a team from New York.

“I was nervous,” he said. “Think the kids were a little nervous, but when the ball was tossed up, our nerves went away and I thought we did a great job.”

Morrilton and Brooklyn are separated by nearly 1,300 miles and 20 hours. Only an event like the Neosho Holiday Classic can bring them together.

 

MORRILTON 59, BENJAMIN BANNEKER 44

Morrilton 13 16 14 16 — 59

Benjamin Banneker 6 6 11 21 — 44

MORRILTON (10-3) — Donald Jones 7 0-0 15, Rashid Washington 4 2-2 10, Torian Cain 1 0-0 2, Xavier Wright 4 0-4 10, Laken Dillard 4 0-0 8, Demarcus Burks 0 0-0 0, Jansen Bell 3 2-2 8, Terry Franklin 0 0-0 0, Maddox Long 0 0-0 0, Lamar Walker 1 0-0 3, Jordan Walls 1 0-0 3. Totals: 25 4-8 59.

BENJAMIN BANNEKER (4-4) — Gabriel Hailey 3 4-5 11, Takai Simpkins 0 0-0 0, Samuel Dosouza 1 1-2 3, John James 5 1-2 11, Jalil Mendoza 1 0-2 2, Tajuan Simpkins 0 0-0 0, Zyeed Cubia 0 0-0 0, Kesly Young 4 2-5 12, Tyreek Barlow 2 1-1 5, Roderick Terry 0 0-0 0. Totals: 16 9-17 44.

3-point goals — Morrilton 5-16 (Wright 2-7, Jones 1-1, Walker 1-1, Walls 1-4, Washington 0-2, Dillard 0-1), Benjamin Banneker 3-12 (Young 2-2, Hailey 1-3, Takai Simpkins 0-3, Barlow 0-3, Tajuan Simpkins 0-1). Rebounds — Morrilton 31 (Jones 14), Benjamin Banneker 24 (James 14). Assists — Morrilton 12 (Dillard 6), Benjamin Banneker 2 (Hailey, Young). Turnovers — Morrilton 9, Benjamin Banneker 12. Steals — Morrilton 2 (Jones, Bell), Benjamin Banneker 6 (Hailey 2). Blocked shots — Morrilton 1 (Cain), Benjamin Banneker 1 (Dousouza). Personal fouls — Morrilton 16, Benjamin Banneker 14. Technical fouls — none. Fouled out — none. Points in the paint — Morrilton 34, Benjamin Banneker 24. Points off turnovers — Morrilton 17, Benjamin Banneker 14. Second chance points — Morrilton 14, Benjamin Banneker 7. Fast break points — Morrilton 15, Benjamin Banneker 4. Bench points — Benjamin Banneker 17, Morrilton 14.