For all the baskets that DuVal High School's Charles Ekeanyanwu made on Friday, it might have been one of the few he missed that proved to be most devastating.
Just a little less than 10 minutes into the county's premier game of the night between previously undefeated and No. 2 ranked Parkdale and DuVal, Ekeanyanwu, who finished with 14 made field goals, drove through the lane and tried a scoop layup that would have ran his total up to 18 on the night. It was a little too strong, but it didn't much matter since teammate Edward Polite was already in the air.
He took the rebound in his right hand and crammed it through the basket, putting his Tigers up 24-8 and drawing some bleacher-pounding celebration from the DuVal faithful.
“I wasn't expecting it, he basically dunked on me,” said Ekeanyanwu, who finished with a season-high 36 points in leading the Tigers to an 85-78 victory, their seventh straight since losing their first two games to Charles H. Flowers and Eleanor Roosevelt by a combined five points. “He can jump out the gym.”
Parkdale, meanwhile, has been without a doubt this year's biggest surprise. Just a year removed from a season in which it didn't win a single game until after Christmas, it won its opening nine games this winter and was the lone unbeaten team aside from Eleanor Roosevelt. But the first quarter showed shades reminiscent of last season's 7-16 team.
Within three minutes, the Tigers were up 10-0, including six points coming from the hands of Ekeanyanwu. Kaine Wilson, Parkdale's sophomore leading scorer (21 points per game), buried a 3-pointer to make it 10-3, but the Panthers would go without a field goal for the next 8 minutes, 42 seconds.
“I think defensively we were at our best tonight,” DuVal first-year coach Lafayette Dublin said. “In man we did especially well. We know they have some really good shooters. We were able to contain them, not shut them down, but contain them, and that's what we were trying to do.”
While Parkdale's field struggles went from bad to worse -- they went just 4-of-17 in the first half -- the Panthers were remarkably efficient at getting to the free throw line. They coverted 14 of their 15 shots from the stripe in the second quarter, keeping the lead in check while bringing the issue of foul trouble into play for the Tigers.
DuVal was forced to play the majority of the first half without leading scorer Michael Cunningham (20.1 points per game) as he was bogged down by a series of quick fouls.
“The whole season I haven't even been out the game,” said Cunningham, who was held scoreless for the entire first half. “It was just real frustrating, but I just tried to pick it up in the second half.”
He picked it up plenty in the second, scoring all 20 of his points in the game's final 16 minutes. And with Cunningham on the bench, Ekeanyanwu, who sometimes takes a more passive role and lets Cunningham shoulder the brunt of the work, was forced to take charge a little more than he's used to.
“He played great,” Cunningham said. “He wanted to show everybody in the county he's one of the top players too.”
Parkdale kept it interesting for the majority of the game. It closed within 12 in the third quarter before allowing the Tigers stretch it back to 20. Parkdale then cut the deficit all the way down to eight after some timely 3-pointers from Wilson and Neiman Strickland. But 36 points in the final frame was too little too late for Parkdale as Cunningham helped seal the deal for the Tigers with 12 fourth quarter points.
“I'm definitely proud of what we have accomplished to this point,” Parkdale coach Tremaine Price said. “Nine and one is nothing to sneeze at. We just ran into a hungry, hungry DuVal team.”
DuVal 85, Parkdale 78
DuVal 20 16 24 25 -- 85
Parkdale 3 20 19 36 -- 78
DuVal (7-2, 4-2): Charles Ekeanyanwu 36; Michael Cunningham 20; Edward Polite 12; Paris Jones 9; Chad Dickerson 6; Lorenzo Patterson 2.
Parkdale (9-1, 5-1): Cameron Thurston 22; Kaine Wilson 19; Adrian Winslow 15; Neiman Strickland 10; Juwan Crawford 7; Anthony Franklin 3; Alexander Lawrence 2.