Kinston continues to roll in ECI

Kinston continues to roll in ECI

Kinston coach Perry Tyndall talks to his team in Friday’s matchup against First Flight in the East Coast Invitational. Photo by Junious Smith III / Neuse News

JACKSONVILLE — Kinston faced adversity in the second day of the East Coast Invitational, but maintained the winning narrative.

The Vikings are now 4-0 in pool play after defeating First Flight 62-44 and South Mecklenburg 45-28 Friday, then beat Jacksonville Northside 58-31 in a showcase game with no bearing on the tournament seeding. Kinston coach Perry Tyndall said the team is always looking to improve, but has played great so far in the tournament.

“We want to win every game we play (and) we’re doing good things,” Tyndall said. “We’ve got a lot of things we can continue to do better (but) I’m happy for the guys. Defensively they’ve been working hard, and there are some things we can clean up that’ll come with time, but they’re playing hard and I can work with that.”  

The Vikings defeated East Chapel Hill 54-34 and Southwest Onslow 102-34 Thursday, and then broke open a close game with First Flight in the second quarter. Chance Minott’s 3-pointer and a pair of Dontrez Styles dunks highlighted an 11-0 run to put the Vikings ahead 27-11. The Nighthawks would cut the deficit to seven on two occasions — the latest coming on a Dylan Blake 3-pointer to start the fourth — but Styles would score inside on the next possession before following up with a perimeter shot of his own as Kinston never looked back.

“We can really learn off (this game), don’t let it get to our heads and keep playing,” Minott said.

The contest with the Sabres was tougher for the Vikings as neither team could find rhythm offensively. A steal and layup from Clarence Burton with 6:31 left in the second put Kinston ahead 10-6, but South Mecklenburg countered with a 6-0 run, punctuated by Ben Hollifield’s 3-pointer to give the Vikings their first deficit of the ECI.

Burton tied the game up with two free throws and Styles hit a 3-pointer to close the half, giving Kinston a 15-12 advantage. Styles would hit two more perimeter baskets in the third quarter, helping the Vikings get necessary separation and eventually take a 34-20 lead after three.

“We started off sluggish and we had to turn it around,” Styles said. “We didn’t play well defensively in the first half and that’s what’s helped us get separation in this tournament.”

Burton said the offense started clicking after the Vikings’ dedication on defense got stronger.

“Teamwork helped us win this one,” Burton said. “We were swinging the ball around, the point guards got everyone good looks and we were executing well.”

On Saturday, Kinston faces West Carteret at 10 a.m. before taking on Wilmington Laney two hours later. Both games will be played at the Jacksonville Commons Recreation Center. There will be a single elimination bracket created in the afternoon for the top teams in the ECI, and games will start at 6 p.m. For more information, go to eciteamcamp.com.

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