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In the opinion of Community Christian School junior guard D.J. Atkinson, his best offense is his defense.
That theory wouldn’t be argued after watching Monday night’s nonconference tilt with DASH Homeschool at Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf’s Barney Williamson Gym.
Behind an active backcourt that included senior Dominique Evans, the Cyclones made the going tough for DASH ball handlers on the wings and the top of the key, leading to 25-plus turnovers and a resounding 67-23 Cyclones victory.
CCS, of the 1-A Coastal Independents Conference, improved to 12-6 and snapped a small two-game losing streak. The Cyclones had entered play losers of three out of their last four. DASH of the North Carolinians for Home Education Athletic Conference departed 6-14 in all games.
“I feel the last few games, we kind of slacked on defense a lot,” CCS head coach Micah Baines said. “So we wanted to make the main emphasis of this game, and the rest of the season, to be the best defensive team that we can be.”
Certainly, that was on display in the first half, with the Cyclones forcing 18 turnovers in that time alone. Evans and Atkinson were the catalysts, trapping DASH ball handlers at the top of the key and on the wings. CCS quickly transformed turnovers into layups and took ownership of the paint with putbacks and dribble penetration.
“I think we played great defense tonight,” Atkinson said. “Coach just told us to stay active on D, hands out. I think we did just that and defense led to offense and got the whole team involved.”
Atkinson, who netted a game-high 20 points, had 14 of his total in the first half. A 3-pointer from Evans made it 11-1 CCS, and Elijah Skinner’s trey was the only DASH field goal of the quarter at the 2:49 mark.
There were minor consequences to the CCS trap — DASH was in the one-and-one with 72 seconds left in the half — but the turnovers resulting from the Cyclones’ pressure easily offset any whistles.
“We wanted to make sure that we keep our hands up,” Baines said. “Once they get the steals, they’re pretty much beating everybody down the floor.”
Senior Cam Williams turned in a three-point play late in the quarter, and CCS led 19-6 after one period. However, any chance that DASH had to make it competitive completely evaporated early in the second quarter.
Senior Rieshod Baines opened the quarter with a 3-pointer, and sophomore Shane Parker followed with a trio of treys as part of a backbreaking 18-1 run. Evans added a pair of layups off DASH turnovers, and the Cyclones were in complete control at 37-7.
“Once one person gets on, we try to ride him until he stops,” Atkinson said. “But then, the team tries to pick up the slack.”
The running clock for a 40-point lead was triggered in the third quarter following a 3-pointer from Baines with 2:25 to go. Baines, with 12 points, was one of four Cyclones in double figures. Evans had 14, with Parker adding 12.
A brisk fourth quarter with the reserves in produced just one basket for each team. CCS held a commanding lead of 65-21 entering the fourth quarter, and led by as many as 44.
“We didn’t handle the pressure very well,” DASH head coach John Skinner said. “They are super talented and athletic, and a lot better competition than we see in our homeschool competition. It makes us better to play against them.”
Andru Cherry led DASH with six points.
CCS will immediately jump back into CIC play on Tuesday at Oakwood.
“Hopefully, we build from this momentum,” Baines said. “I feel like we may be out of the slump now.”
DASH UNITED (23)
Moore 3, Haymore, Baker, Caviness 3, Skinner 3, Moore 1, Bailey, Dienes 2, Powell 2, Bittner 3, Cherry 6.
Evans 14, Atkinson 20, Dixon, Parker 12, Winstead 2, Williams 3, Baines 12, Pender 2, Bridgers 2.
Score by quarters: