By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports
When you go to play the Huntington Raiders, everybody knows that stopping Rayshaun McCullar is going to be a challenge. The 6-foot-1 point guard gets about as much attention from opposing teams as he does from college recruiters.
But the Raiders didn’t get to the top of the District 1-4A standings by simply relying on McCullar. If they didn’t know already, the Evangel Eagles found that out Tuesday night in the Huntington gym.
DeKelveon Taylor had 26 points, including five 3-pointers, and DeCedric Webb had 24 to lead the Raiders to a 72-54 win.
Taylor took over the game in the second quarter after Evangel had narrowed it to 18-17, making three 3-pointers as the Raiders built the lead to 33-23.
“He’s been playing well lately,” Huntington coach Mack Jones said. “We’ve challenged him because everyone is taking away McCullar. We tell him (Taylor) to take those shots when he’s open because he can knock them down. He’s the X-factor right now for us.”
The Raiders owned the paint with a huge rebounding advantage and numerous blocked shots against Evangel. Taylor’s shooting also opened up the inside game for the 6-foot-5 Webb.
“We tried to get the ball inside to Webb, and Evangel had a hard time with him,” Jones said. “Evangel is a tough opponent and they have been playing well. It was a grind on each possession and rebounding was a big part.”
Another big part was trying to slow down Evangel’s 6-foot-4 senior Lance Waddles, who had 21 points. “Waddles,” Jones said, “is a handful.”
But the Raiders did a nice job on him in the second half as Waddles scored only four points, and Huntington ran away with it. The Eagles got as close as 44-40 before Huntington went on a 22-9 run in the third and fourth quarters.
No other Eagle had more than 11 points.
“It’s hard to beat a team like that and not get much productivity from the rest of the team,” Evangel coach Eric Shepherd said. “Lance kept us in there for a while and some other guys made a few shots. But we have to be able to score consistently.”
After a narrow 44-40 win by Huntington the first time the two teams played, Shepherd was hoping his team would come out strong.
“I thought we didn’t play hard to start the game and came out slow,” he said. “Against Huntington, you can’t afford to do that. You have to be ready to play. It looked like we weren’t really up for the challenge at the start.”
Huntington, 14-4 overall and winners of seven of the last eight, will have another challenge Friday when the Raiders go on the road to play Woodlawn. Both are Top 10 teams in the Class 4A power rankings. Huntington won the previous meeting 69-66.
“We are pleased to be 6-0 at this point (in the district) and have a two-game lead on everybody,” Jones said. “We don’t take it lightly and this was a big game.”
Evangel (15-6, 4-2) will be at home against North DeSoto Friday night.
Photo by JOHN JAMES MARSHALL