Bassick senior Demetrius Thomas spent the first six minutes of Wednesday night’s season-opener against McMahon right back where he was last winter.
On the bench.
However, once the athletic 6-foot-3 forward found his way onto the court, there was simply no stopping him.
Thomas poured in a game-high 22 points to go along with 11 rebounds and two blocked shots as the defending FCIAC champion Lions warded off an early threat from the young Senators and rolled to a 70-47 victory at the Mary Kehoe-Ralph King gymnasium.
After sitting out most of the first quarter due to a coach’s decision, Thomas entered with 1:27 left and scored eight straight points, including a powerful slam dunk off a McMahon turnover, to turn a 14-13 lead into a 22-15 advantage.
McMahon, which lost 13 players from last year’s FCIAC quarterfinalist team, used a 7-0 run to get within 52-41 with 5:34 left. But Thomas poured in 10 points over the final five minutes to seal the victory.
With seven talented players gone from last year’s team, which won the FCIAC title before reaching the Class L semifinals, the Lions will need more of the same from its new go-to player.
“He can play inside or outside,” Bassick veteran head coach Harrison Taylor said. “He proved that last year and he did it again tonight. He just has to learn everything doesn’t have to be a slam dunk.”
Thomas did do plenty of that against the Senators, showing off his skill on three breakaway slams.
“He has the talent to be one of the best players in the FCIAC,” Bassick assistant coach Bernie Lofton said.
McMahon head coach Mo Tomlin would certainly agree with that. Thomas showed the ability to run the floor and the touch to hit from the outside. But McMahon had no one to match up with Thomas in the paint so he took everything the Senators gave him.
Thomas didn’t see much consistent time on the floor last season with a loaded team in front of him. But he always showed flashes of brilliance. Against McMahon, Thomas proved he can take over a game by himself.
“He’s tough,” Tomlin said. “With his size and athleticism and quickness, he’s just hard to handle. You almost have to have a mirror image of him to stop him. Most teams in the league don’t have that. A few I can think of, but definitely not us.”
Bassick also received solid outings from Mario Macklin, who scored 13 points to go along with seven rebounds and one block, and senior guard Devin Coleman (10 points, five assists), who helped turn the game in Bassick’s favor in the third quarter.
McMahon trailed just 28-23 at halftime, but Coleman scored eight points over the first three minutes, including Bassick’s only two 3-pointers of the game, to put the Lions up 36-27 with 5:00 left.
Coleman is the only returning starter from last year.
Nine different players hit the scoring sheet for Bassick.
“Our scoring is going to be spread out this year,” Lofton said. “It’s not going to be just one or two people this year. We’re going to need that type of balance every night. We have to work on sharing the ball and maybe later on we can be a good team.”
The Senators put together one spurt in the fourth quarter when they looked like the press-and-run team Tomlin wants them to be. Promising freshman Timmy Hinton (six points) scored off a turnover then fed Darkym Stroud (seven points, six rebounds) after a steal at half court.
Andy Mitchell (nine points) followed that up with a conventional 3-point play to pull the Senators within 11 points with 5:34 left.
Unfortunately, the Senators had many more moments when they looked as young as they are, turning the ball over 26 times compared to just 14 for Bassick.
With just two players returning with any type of varsity experience, Tomlin knows it’s going to take time before his team gels.
“It’s a double-edged sword having so many seniors last year,” he said. “In this league you can’t just step out of summer ball or AAU and expect to compete. Right now we’re very green, and we looked like it tonight. But we will get better.”
One player who is already there is sophomore Larry McKinney, who led McMahon with 15 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and one blocked shot. The left-handed McKinney was the only one capable of matching the scoring pace of Thomas. His opportunities were there, many of which came as a result of his great leaping ability. The shots just did not fall.
The Senators also might have something special in Hinton, who performed well despite also playing in the freshman and junior varsity games on Wednesday.
“I told our excellent freshman coach he might not have (Hinton) for long,” Tomlin said. “He’s a consistent hard worker. He’s a good kid. He definitely stands out.”
TRINITY CATHOLIC 74, HARDING 43: Kevin Lemeune scored 21 points and Jason Boswell had 19 in his first game with the Crusaders, who outscored the Presidents 41-22 in the second half.
Schadrac Casimir added 10 points in the victory.
Tyshawn Mulling scored 18 points for the Presidents. The loss spoiled the coaching debut of Charles Clemons, who has taken over for the legendary Charlie Bentley, who retired after 34 seasons and nine state titles.