PLATTSBURGH, NY — On paper, North Country Community College has the size, the athleticism and the shooters to cruise past Clinton Community College.
Fortunately for the Cougars, games are not played on paper. Clinton Community came out firing on all cylinders in the first game of the season as the stunned the Saints 70-65 at Clinton Community College on Tuesday.
‘It was the first game for both teams,’ Cougars head coach Kevin Daugherty said. ‘If you are going to get a team as deep and talented as North Country, playing them right off the bat is definitely an advantage.’
Philip Barnes, a freshman guard from the Cayman Islands, dropped in a game-high 32 points, hit five 3-pointers and grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds.
‘He’s a heck of a player,’ Daugherty said. ‘We are lucky to have him; he makes the other kids better.
‘We went to him late when we needed a basket and he hit some clutch free throws for us.’
Phillip’s mother, Ms Pauline Barnes, is happy to see her son excelling abroad. ‘I am so proud of Philip,’ she said. ‘I see that Philip has great potential and he will make it far with the qualities that he has, he is a very talented and disciplined young man.’
The Cougars went into the half trailing 35-31, but took the lead early in the second half and never relinquished it.
Richard Walker, a freshman out of Beekmantown, used all 5-9 of his height to play a strong game inside for Clinton. Walker finished with eight points and eight rebounds and did a solid job defensively against both Joe Akey and Josh Dirolf of the Saints. ‘We got some nice minutes from our bench tonight,’ Daugherty said. ‘(Viriglio) Torres and (Alex) Davis each played well in the second half. Davis made some key baskets and kept the ball alive off the glass for us. (Phillip) Romero and (Issac) Dirolf also hit some big baskets.
‘There is definitely some room for improvement. The team knows that they have to bust their butts, play hard and with intensity and play smart each and every game. A lot of teams on the schedule might have more talent and will be deeper then us, but sometimes you can negate that with desire and intensity.’
Dirolf picked up 10 points while Torres contributed six in the second half for the Cougars. Coach Daugherty, the former Plattsburgh High School head coach, picked up his first coaching victory at Clinton in his very first opportunity.
‘It is very satisfying to get this win,’ Daugherty said. ‘The kids worked very hard and did what we had to do. It’s still early though and we have a lot of basketball left.’
North Country hit five 3-pointers in the first half, but could only manage one down the stretch when they were needed.
Ryan Volkmann led the way for the Saints with 13 points and three 3-pointers, while also playing a strong floor game at the point guard position. Elfred Miller chipped in with 12 points in the loss. Akey, who battled foul trouble all night, only managed five points.
‘When Joe Akey picked up his fourth foul, that seemed to hurt them a bit,’ Daugherty said. ‘North Country played well though in their first game as well. They did a lot of good things tonight. This was a very competitive first game of the year; the fan’s definitely got their money’s worth.
‘(North Country) has great balance and great depth. They will be a very tough team once they get their chemistry down. They are going to be very good.’
The one improvement Daugherty notices his team needs to improve on is their free-throw shooting. In the second half the Cougars went 9-for-21 from the line, including a span in which they missed six consecutive.
‘The free-throw shooting is really the only negative I can think of for tonight,’ Daugherty said.