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Aces play to strengths in victory

Published Jan. 3 at 11:18 p.m. | Last updated Jan. 3 at 11:19 p.m.

If there was any question what East’s offensive scheme was against Derby Friday night at Koch Arena, it was crystal clear after the first quarter when all six of the Aces’ field goals came in the lane.

And why not focus on playing around the basket? East had a size advantage on Derby, and the Aces used it again and again in a 71-59 win in the City League vs. Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail basketball challenge.

“We’re longer and taller and more aggressive,” said East forward Traevon McGairty, who had nine points and nine rebounds. “(East coach Joe Jackson) told us a lot to take advantage. We had to listen to him, use our bodies and get big and do what we had to do. I think we got a lot of offensive rebounds, posted up strong and we did good on post defense, too.”

East outrebounded Derby 47-21, including 20-10 on the offensive boards. Zach Jackson led East with 18 points and 13 rebounds, while Xavier Kelly added 16 points and 10 rebounds.

East’s two main inside players are Kelly, who is 6-foot-5, 210 pounds, and McGairty (6-2). Jackson plays more of a guard, but at 6-4, he’s got the strength and size to control the lane, too.

“Xavier showed again tonight how strong he is on the block, even facing a lot of double teams,” Joe Jackson said. “… We’re not always going to be the biggest team, but we have some guys who can get the job done down there, and that’s been a point of emphasis for us.”

East senior Tyas Martin also drives the lane well and he finished with 15 points. Musa Mutazammil had two blocked shots.

As for Derby, Tevin Mitchell (10 points, one rebound) and Devin Beal are 6-foot, while guards Jeremy Dunham and James Conley are 6-2. Dunham had 16 points, four steals and two blocked shots, while Conley added 12 points.

“We knew with our size it would be a struggle for us,” Derby coach Brett Flory said. “… We had some challenges to combat that. Our margin for error isn’t great. But I hope our guys understand that when we compete as hard as we can, we can hang with people.”

East cruised to a 53-31 lead after three periods — the Aces’ biggest lead was at 49-25 with 3:03 to go in the third.

Derby responded in the fourth, though. East was turning the ball over and had eight of their 21 turnovers in the final period. And Derby got hot offensively, rattling off nine unanswered to get within 59-46 with 3:55 to go.

But then Jackson lobbed a pass to Kelly for the alley-oop dunk, re-establishing the Aces’ dominance in the lane.

“We knew we outsized Derby a little bit,” Joe Jackson said. “We tried to get guys that hunger, that killer instinct to get on the boards.

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Derby111192859

East: Kelly 16, McGairty 9, Jackson 18, Mutzammil 6, Martin 15, Champion 2, Johnson 4, Eckels 1.

Derby: Dunham 16, Wright 10, Steadman 5, Conley 12, Mitchell 10, Mark 1, Hall 3, Thompson 2.