First-year Madison boys basketball coach Maurice Baker has been a part of some memorable victories in his storied basketball career.
But few probably mean as much as the 69-56 win his Trojans secured Friday night over Gibault.
Senior forward Kendall Kennedy scored eight of his team-high 20 points in the first quarter as the Trojans bolted to a 21-9 advantage in the opening eight minutes.
Madison’s lead would remain in double digits the remainder of the night as the Trojans rolled to a win in their first home game of the season.
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“This has to be one of the best wins I have ever had,” said Baker, who after an all-state career at Madison that wrapped up in 1997 played college basketball at Dixie State and Oklahoma State, and later pro basketball in leagues all over the world. “There is something special about being here, back home, in front of all of the fans.
“I didn’t know if I’d ever find myself back here. But all those familiar faces here watching us play. This was sweet.”
The Trojans’ ability to take care of the basketball and cause chaos on the defensive end proved key to them building their early advantage.
Madison helped force Gibault (2-3) into seven first-quarter turnovers, and the Hawks had committed 10 before Madison was guilty of its third.
“Coach doesn’t like us making turnovers, even in practice,” said Kennedy, who hit 9 of 17 shots from the field and also grabbed eight rebounds. “At the end of practice, we have to run for a minute for every turnover we make.
“We don’t like running.”
Baker was pleased with his team’s defense, especially early on.
Gibault made just 5 of 25 shots in the first half and was guilty of 12 turnovers overall in the first 16 minutes.
“Our defense looked awfully good at times,” said Baker, whose team improved to 5-1. “We were able to get some steals and stops that turned into run-outs.
“We’re stressing defense with this group. If we play good defense we’ve let them know we can be successful.”
Gibault did get a big game from senior Karson Huels, who finished with a game-high 29 points, including 13 in the third quarter.
Huels is the Hawks only player who saw any kind of significant playing time on last year’s team that finished 22-8.
But the Hawks never could find a way to get back into the game. The smallest deficit they faced in the second half was 13 points, as Madison at times seemed content to trade baskets.
“This is our first away game, and we just did not handle it very well,” said Gibault coach Dennis Reuter. “We didn’t play very well the whole game, and they made some shots. We got down in a hole, and they made it tough to come back.”
Cameron Jameson added 14 points and six rebounds for the Trojans. Tyrese Crawford finished with 10 points.
Logan Doerr was the only other Gibault player to reach double-digit scoring finishing with 10 points.
“Karson did a good job from keeping us from being in real bad shape, although he did force some shots in the second half,” said Reuter. “Our other guys need to do some more things.
“But more than anything it was our defense. We didn’t rebound as well on the defensive end as I would have hoped.”
Madison will return to action Monday, when it travels to Maplewood-Richmond Heights. Gibault is at home against Metro-East Lutheran on Friday.