By: Alonso Tacanga
LANCASTER – Shelton Boykin danced around with the basketball, closer to midcourt than to the 3-point line, seemingly unaware that the last two seconds of the first half of Wednesday’s game against Bakersfield were about to expire.
By the time Boykin Jr.’s 27-footer had swished through the net, AVC head coach John Taylor – who instants before had been screaming at the top of his lungs for the Marauder to shoot the ball – was halfway through a reverse-baseball-swing pose, ending with a fist up in approval of one of the climaxing moments during the Marauders’ 74-65 Western State South Conference win.
"That’s huge," Taylor said. "Shelton lives for those kinds of shots. We were trying to get him the ball, just not that far away."
Boykin’s big-time make was one of seven AVC treys in a first half where the Marauders used long-distance shooting to build a sizable lead before they eventually needed to fend off the pesky Renegades (12-9, 2-5 WSS)
The win was the 13th in a row for AVC (19-4, 7-0), which hasn’t lost in well over a month.
"Who’s counting?" Taylor said.
The Marauders’ last defeat occurred on Dec. 10 against San Bernardino Valley at the Riverside City Tournament. At the time, it had been the fourth loss in six games for AVC. The Marauders have certainly atoned for that since.
Boykin scored 12 of his game-high 18 points in the first half – which AVC won 41-24 – and Ismail Ali and Adrian Francis each added 11 for the Marauders, who made 7-of-18 three-pointers before halftime but only 1-of-7 after that.
"Sometimes it gets hard to stay humble and put two halves together," Boykin said. "That’s the amazing part. We’re not playing our best and we are still able to pull out wins and figure out teams."
Before finally shaking off Bakersfield for good, the Marauders wasted all but four points from a 19-point second-half lead.
The result of getting outscored 30-15 after a basket by Tajee Shaw made it 50-31 early in the second half, AVC’s lead shrunk to 65-61 with 1:35 to go.
Knowing the 3-pointers that once were falling for them were no longer, Ali drove to the basket for a backbreaking layup that cooled off Bakersfield’s momentum and allowed AVC to finally exhale.
Ultimately, the Marauders were served by an outstanding first half and scored just enough after halftime to prevent a disheartening loss.
"To hang on, I thought we showed some guts," Taylor said. "Because (Bakersfield) came with everything they had."
The Marauders struggled with their three-point making in the second half, but they were still the envy of Bakersfield. The Renegades didn’t make a 3-pointer for the game, going 0-for-8.
Even as it needed points in a hurry down the stretch, Bakersfield chose to stay away from them. The Renegades only attempted two after halftime.
Outside of that, Bakersfield, which lost its fourth game in a row, went 18-for-36 from the field in the second half, while the Marauders went 11-for-31.
"In some instances, we might have been better off encouraging the 3, because they really attacked the basket well in the second half," Taylor said.
Bakersfield was led by guard Jameik Riviere and forward Deandre Dickson with 17 points apiece. Dickson also grabbed 12 rebounds.
In the end, AVC simply gave itself enough of an early cushion to withstand the Renegades’ onslaught and its own shooting woes after halftime. Boykin’s shot was clutch in that sense.
"If I need to make a big shot, I’m not afraid to take the big shot," Boykin said.