Two charging fouls limited Isaiah Tisdale to just four minutes of playing time in the first half Friday night, and the Henry Clay High School senior admitted it was tough watching from the bench.
“I was begging,” he said. “I was hoping Coach would call my name and throw me in there.”
Tisdale more than made up for his absence in the second half.
The senior left-hander showed why he’s ranked among the top college prospects in the state, scoring 19 of his game-high 21 points in the second half as the Blue Devils beat host Eastern 82-77.
The 6-foot guard added eight rebounds, five assists and two steals as the Blue Devils – No. 14 in the state in The Courier-Journal’s preseason poll of coaches – improved to 4-0.
Tisdale also hit 11 of 13 free throws and helped the Blue Devils go 15 of 15 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
“He showed his grit late when we got the ball in his hands and making those free throws,” Henry Clay coach Daniel Brown said. “That was huge for us.”
GALLERY | Henry Clay at Eastern boys basketball
Jordan Houston added 18 points and 10 rebounds and Leander Ridgeway pitched in 15 points for the Blue Devils, who shot 50 percent (11 of 22) in the second half and won the rebounding battle 40-26. Henry Clay finished with 13 second-chance points off 17 offensive rebounds.
Caleb Williams posted 16 points and six rebounds to lead No. 24 Eastern (2-2). Kobey Jones and Javen Rushin both added 13.
The Eagles shot 53.2 percent (25 of 47) but couldn’t overcome Henry Clay’s advantage on the boards and couldn’t get a late defensive stop when they needed one.
“When we needed our defense in the last four minutes, we didn’t do it,” Eagles coach David Henley said. “But they played hard. We just didn’t finish, and we didn’t rebound. That comes down to toughness and wanting to go get it.”
Tisdale picked up his second charging foul at the 3:50 mark of the first quarter and watched the rest of the half from the bench.
But Ridgeway (11 points) and Houston (10 points) carried the scoring load as Henry Clay built a 37-34 halftime lead.
“That was huge,” Brown said. “That tells you the depth of our team, especially coming here at a tough place to win. … As long as we were in it I wasn’t going to put (Tisdale) back in.”
Braxton Johnson’s 3-pointer gave Eastern a 45-43 lead with 3:57 left in the third quarter before Henry Clay answered with a 15-6 surge.
Tisdale’s 3-point play capped the run and gave the Blue Devils a 58-51 advantage with 6:19 left.
“The second half I knew I had to bring some energy to the team,” Tisdale said.
Defensive lapses kept Eastern from making a run late.
Paul Price hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give Henry Clay a 70-62 lead with 3:07 left.
After Williams hit a pair of free throws to pull the Eagles within 72-69 with 1:45 left, Eastern failed to stop dribble penetration and gave up a pair of easy baskets to Houston, the latter making it 76-71 with 1:01 left.
Henley said his junior-laden roster is suffering growing pains early this season.
“We’re just trying to get guys on the same page,” he said. “They’re just out there running around. … Their freshman year and last year in (junior varsity), they just beat the heck out of everybody. They didn’t have to be solid on defense. They didn’t have to close out. They didn’t have to help and recover.
“Now other teams are taking advantage of that.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and email@example.com.
Henry Clay (4-0): Tisdale 21, Price 9, Ridgeway 15, Houston 18, Jones 2, Simpson 5, K. Mitchell 10, Finch 2.
Eastern (2-2): Knight 5, Wyche 7, Johnson 6, Jones 13, Rushin 13, Moore 11, Wright 6, Williams 16.
3-point goals – Price 2, Ridgeway, Simpson, K. Mitchell; Wyche, Johnson 2, Jones 2, Rushin 2, Moore.