Boys basketball: Dixon cranks it up on offense, defense to top Kewanee

Dukes use huge first-half surge to pull away early to win home opener

Dixon’s Cullen Shaner puts up a three point shot against Kewanee Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023 in Dixon.

DIXON – When Dixon turned up the heat on both ends of the court Monday night at Lancaster Gym, Kewanee couldn’t keep up.

The Dukes used a huge first-half run to build a big lead and cruise to a 57-33 victory in their home opener against the Boilermakers.

“Honestly, we just wanted to kind of imprint in their heads that we were coming after them. We just wanted to kind of stomp on it early and make sure they didn’t come back,” Dixon junior forward Darius Harrington said. “We just wanted to get a big old lead and just shut down their offense, which I think we did a good job of.”

Dixon (4-0) led 11-7 after a basket by Kewanee senior forward Brady Clark with 3:00 left in the first quarter. But Harrington found Cullen Shaner open for a 3, then Mason Weigle put back a miss to ignite a 22-1 run over the next 7:39 and push the margin to 33-8 with 2:59 left before halftime.

That run ended with 17 straight points, and five different Dukes scored during the surge.

“We definitely feed off each other. Once everyone starts making shots, we just start feeling ourselves get going and we can spread out the ball and build the lead,” senior guard Austin Hicks said. “It’s nice to have that balance. When one of us isn’t hitting, we know we can just dish it off to the next person and we know they’re going to knock it down.”

Dixon’s Darius Harrington works down low against Kewanee’s Brady Clark Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023 in Dixon.

Shaner went coast -to-coast off a steal, then Weigle hit a cutting Harrington on a pretty drive-and-dish play to end the first quarter with Dixon ahead 23-8. Hicks then opened the second quarter with a 3 and a full-court driving layup after rebounding a Kewanee miss, then Harrington backed down his defender for a bucket before Hicks scored on an offensive rebound for a 33-8 lead.

Leading 35-18 at halftime, Dixon hit its first three shots of the second half to re-establish control. Bryce Feit scored off a baseline cut before backing down his defender for a layup, and Hicks nailed a 3 off a Harrington assist to make it 42-19 less than two minutes into the third quarter.

“We know everybody can score and go get a basket, but we’ll take great shots rather than good shots,” Harrington said. “If somebody else is wide open, kick it one more pass and we’ll take that shot instead of driving between two people. We shoot the ball at a high percentage from 3, and we’ve got lots of guys who can do that, so that one more pass just really helps us.”

The Dukes shot 20-for-39 from the field before emptying the bench midway through the fourth quarter, including 8-for-18 from 3-point range. They also scored 12 second-chance points off of 12 offensive rebounds in a patient, efficient attack that saw six different players score at least to baskets.

“We know when shots aren’t falling, we can get to the basket and score in the paint – and if shots are falling, they have to commit to our drive and we kick out and hit 3s,” Shaner said. “And the hustle plays, we go over it all the time: Coach says with the 50-50 ball, we have to get to 100% of them. Getting to those, getting those offensive rebounds, that gives us so many more possessions, so many more chances to score, and we’ve been working on taking advantage of those. We did that tonight.”

Dixon’s Austin Hicks drives past Kewanee’s Blaise Lewis Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023 in Dixon.

Harrington led all players with a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds, and also had three assists and two steals. Hicks had 13 points and five rebounds, and Shaner added 11 points, two assists and two steals. Eli Davidson hit a pair of 3s and grabbed three rebounds, Weigle finished with five points and three boards, and Feit chipped in four points, seven rebounds and three assists.

The Dukes limited Kewanee to 12-for-43 shooting from the field, including an ice-cold 2-for-19 from 3-point range, and held a 38-21 rebounding advantage.

Clark led the Boilers (2-3) with 14 points, three rebounds and three steals, Davontae Jordan added 10 points and three steals, and Kashen Ellerbrock chipped in four points and three rebounds.

“Dixon’s a good team. They’re quick, they’re strong. We came in thinking we could compete with them a little bit, but early on, looking at our kids faces … it looked like we were lost mentally a little bit. And then of course when the shots don’t go down, it kind of snowballs into a whole effect of poor play,” Kewanee coach Matt Clark said. “We’ve struggled with the mental side of it; we’ve got a lot of kids who didn’t play varsity last year – we’ve got some older kids too – but 17 juniors that haven’t really tasted a 3A program. They took it to us physically, they got second-chance points, it just wasn’t very good.

“It’s tough when you don’t hit shots to continue to play with a lot of effort, and I thought we did play with that effort – but not consistently enough. And that’s on me. We just didn’t bring it tonight, and we were just kind of making mistakes we didn’t play very well.”

Dixon’s Eli Davidson handles the ball against Kewanee Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023 in Dixon.