26 points led all scorers. The Buccaneers, who led from the opening seconds until the final buzzer, got 13 points from Johnson in the first quarter, which ended with Kent Island holding a 17-10 lead.
Though Bulldog junior David Bailey led his team with 20 points, the absence of injured point guard Joey Adams, who is not expected to play until possibly the playoffs due to a concussion suffered at Kent Island last week, was noticeable.
Without Adams bringing the ball downcourt and providing a balance to Bailey, the Bucs were able to key on the latter. It worked in the early going, Bailey being held to a single bucket in the first quarter.
“David’s a good player, but we definitely can’t seem to compete nearly as well, as a team overall, without Joey,” North Caroline head coach Steve Perry said. “Joey gives us depth and skill back there that you can’t get twice from the same person.”
Though the Bulldogs closed within four points twice in the second quarter, Kent Island managed to gain separation each time; at half, it was 30-20. Bailey, 1-for-5 in the first period from the floor, was 3-for-5 in the second, adding a 3-for-3 showing at the free throw line, for 11 total points at intermission. Johnson, who had cooled off in the second, had 15 at that point.
The second half began with both teams looking out of synch, and missing all but two of their first nine combined shots. Halfway through the third, each team had scored just six more points.
“The guys tend to get down if they’re missing some shots. If they make a turnover, they get their heads down,” Kratovil said. “The shots will come and go we’ll make mistakes but as long as we play with intensity, play tough D and keep our heads up, we’ll be in every game.
“It was not, as you saw, it was not a, for us, a very smooth offensive game,” Kratovil said. “And part of that was, when I’m making substitutions I’m making decisions on defense and offense. So, someone who’s strong defensively might not be on offense. And that’s the give and take you get.”
What little the Bucs did give, North Caroline tried to take, but had mixed results, closing within seven before Kent Island opened it up again in the final seconds of the third. Entering the final stanza, the Bucs led 49-33, and maintained that 16-point margin through the fourth.
“Our goal was to slow Bailey down, and we did, some, but he still made some amazing shots. He’s just a hell of an athlete,” Kratovil said. “In the first half of the last game, when they had their shooter, it was a very different game. They’re a very, very wellbalanced team, and without their shooter, they’re different.”
The win, and top-seed plateau, were big points of pride for his team, Kent Island’s coach observed.
“We’ve been building on this for a couple years. And the kids are excited about it; we’ve had a couple of other games we should’ve pulled out but we didn’t,” Kratovil said. “When you’ve had those kinds of losses, sometimes it’s hard to come back from them. ...They’ve become much stronger mentally over the course of the season.”
The win was big in several ways for Dallas Miller, who finished with nine points, including two threepointers early in the fourth that squelched North Caroline’s last rally. Miller, the team’s point man for a good chunk of his high school career, played not only for Kratovil last season, but also played varsity the season before that, when the Bucs went just 2-19.
“Two years ago, we were one of the worst teams in the Bayside,” Miller said. “But now, with the progress we’ve made, we’re one of the best. It’s an honor to play on this team.”
John VanWie had 10 points for Kent Island. North Caroline’s Tay Potts scored eight.
The Bulldogs wrap up the regular season Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at Colonel Richardson, which is battling Cambridge-South Dorchester for the No. 2 seed behind Kent County in the Class 1A East Section I bracket.