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It was the game and the matchup Duncan wanted, and with 10 minutes to go, it was the score they wanted, too.
In the final four minutes, though, seventh-ranked MacArthur surged to win the championship game of the Chisholm Trail Holiday Shootout for the third straight year, topping the host team, 59-51.
“We came in knowing we could play with them,” Duncan senior Carter David said. “We came in playing to win.”
The Demons (5-4) started slow, going 0-for-8 on 3-point attempts in the first quarter and falling into a 19-10 hole early in the second quarter before roaring into the lead with a 14-0 run.
After the two squads went into halftime tied at 26, the lead changed hands three times in the third quarter, with the Highlanders (5-1) taking the lead for good with 1:38 left in the period.
Duncan twice cut the deficit to a point in the fourth quarter but the Highlanders always seemed to have a response as it held on for the win.
“If that’s the best that (No. 7) has to offer, I think we’re going to be alright,” Duncan coach Mikel Davison said. “We’re playing a senior-laden ballclub, we’re playing with a bunch of inexperienced kids. We’re going to be alright. We just have to get a little bit of experience under our belts.”
The Demons won the battle of the boards 34-27, but couldn’t keep up with MacArthur’s long-range shooting. Duncan settled for 3-pointers throughout the night but connected on only 5-of-25, compared to 4-of-14 by the Highlanders.
Senior guard Cade Baldwin led the 18th-ranked Demons with 16 points and six rebounds, while David had eight points and 10 rebounds and junior DeAndre Vermaire added eight points. Senior Jack Braught, who made the All-Tournament Team, finished with seven points and eight rebounds, junior Isiah Ervin had six points and eight rebounds and junior JeMario McCoy scored six points.
The Demons will close out the new year just above .500, but with plenty to be optimistic about as they continue to break in a youthful and inexperienced group.
“I think we are feeling pretty good coming in after the break,” David said. “I feel like we can play with anybody.”
Though the Demons weren’t pleased when they walked off the floor Saturday night, there are two things to be especially happy about: 1, it was the first time the Demons have made it to the championship game of their tournament, and 2, they will get plenty of chances to rematch MacArthur this season.
“We’re going to play these guys two, three, four, maybe even five more times,” Davison said. “We’re not going anywhere. We’re going to give as good as we get.”