ELKHART — As suggested by matching wide grins, Elkhart Memorial junior Iyan Jennings and coach Kyle Sears each felt totally exhilarated once the Crimson Chargers' astonishing comeback victory was complete, yet in another way, they also felt quite the opposite.
"Tonight was a night I felt like I could keep going, never stop," Jennings said. "I never felt (spent)."
On the other hand, "I feel worn out — like I was playing," Sears declared.
Jennings delivered off-the-bench energy, while an unusually demonstrative Sears delivered from-the bench energy — which his players seemed to respond to — as the Chargers stormed back from an 18-point, third quarter deficit to stun Concord 56-53 in Friday's Northern Lakes Conference boys high school basketball opener at McCuen Gym.
Memorial (3-3, 1-0) trailed 42-24 at the midway mark of the third period, its fourth 18-point deficit of the night, but buoyed by its relentless trapping defense, kept chipping away.
"That's how we are," said Jennings, who scored 13 of his career-high 15 points in the second half to go with five rebounds. "We just want to fight and never give up, and that's how Coach has taught us. We just play scrappy and get after it. With our (lack of) size, that's all we can do."
"I couldn't be prouder of these guys," said Sears, whose club was playing its first true road contest of the season. "We have fought every night, been in a lot of tough games (Memorial's three losses have each come by six points or fewer, one in overtime). We kept battling. I just wish we wouldn't get off to these slow starts."
Friday's was about as slow as it gets.
The Minutemen (2-5, 1-0) scored on each of their first five possessions for a 10-0 lead just 3:21 into the game. They led 20-7 at the end of one quarter, 27-9 by midway through the second and by 18 points three more times after that.
The hosts built their wide margin largely on being larger, and on capitalizing efficiently. Junior Grant Magnuson and sophomore Michael Johnson — each 6-foot-4, while the Chargers had nobody bigger than 6-1 — did steady damage inside over the first three periods, combining for 25 points and 11-of-15 field goal shooting.
Yet, neither ever attempted a field goal in the final period, each going 1-of-2 at the line.
"(Memorial was) helping more inside, but we still had some balls we could've thrown in there," Concord coach Steve Austin said of the final quarter. "We tried to do it by ourselves, one-on-one, and we're not good enough to do that. We should've learned that from the other games we've played so far."
The Minutemen coughed up 12 second-half turnovers, with the Chargers often cashing those into transition points, and finished with 16 turnovers on the night to Memorial's 10.
"We started playing their type of ball," Austin said. "We got the lead by playing good team ball. It's probably the best we've looked for three quarters, but then we started going individual and don't realize situations. We take a shot when we've got the lead with a minute left. We foul a kid on a 3-point shot. It's ridiculous. We beat ourselves at that point."
The Chargers' first lead of the night came when sophomore Hank Smith converted all three free throws on that aforementioned foul, giving Memorial a 48-47 advantage with 4:35 to go.
Concord went back on top, 53-52, on Brandon Emerick's corner 3-pointer with 1:31 remaining.
But Joe Smith made a Charger steal at 34 seconds left and gave his team the lead for good at 54-53 with two free throws at 28 seconds showing.
After a missed Minuteman shot, Jennings added two more free throws at nine ticks left for the final count, before Emerick missed a corner 3 as time expired.
Hank Smith led all scorers with 18 points. Brother Joe added 11 points, seven assists and three steals, while 5-9 Jose Soto netted 10 points to go with a game-high eight rebounds.
But it was Jennings who was the surprise contributor. He had averaged 2.8 points and 15 minutes over Memorial's first five games, and had recently moved to a bench role after starting the first two games.
"Once Coach took me out of the starting lineup, it made me more aggressive," Jennings admitted. "Tonight I just tried to go hard and had a mindset of winning."
Magnuson paced Concord with 14 points. Johnson added 13, while Denzel Halliburton had 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Marvell Danner dished seven assists.
Senior Cedric Mitchell sat out for the Minutemen with an ankle sprain suffered earlier in the week, but said he's hopeful of playing Tuesday at Jimtown.
ELKHART MEMORIAL 56, CONCORD 53
Memorial: Tryston Swartz 0-1 0-0 0, Joe Smith 3-8 5-6 11, Ga'Various Crawford 1-2 0-0 2, Hank Smith 6-14 3-3 18, Jose Soto 3-9 2-2 10, Iyan Jennings 6-11 3-6 15, Latell Washington 0-0 0-0 0, Keldon Warrell 0-0 0-0 0, Jai-Veon Qaiyim 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 19-45 (.422) 13-17 (.765) 56.
Concord: Michael Johnson 6-9 1-2 13, Grant Magnuson 5-6 4-5 14, Marvell Danner 2-4 2-6 7, Denzel Halliburton 4-9 0-0 10, Brandon Emerick 3-6 2-2 9, Matt Auger 0-1 0-0 0, Anthony Kyle 0-0 0-0 0, Jaequon Boothe-Summers 0-0 0-0 0, Luke Shoemaker 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 20-35 (.571) 9-15 (.600) 53.
Scoring By Quarters
3-point goals: Memorial (5-17) - H. Smith 3-7, Soto 2-6; Concord (4-11) - Halliburton 2-4, Danner 1-3, Emerick 1-4.
Rebounds: Memorial (24) - Soto 8, Jennings 5; Concord (24) - Halliburton 7, Johnson 5.
Assists: Memorial (11) - J. Smith 7; Concord (16) - Danner 7, Halliburton 4.
Steals: Memorial (8) - J. Smith 3, Soto 2; Concord (2) - Danner, Emerick.
Turnovers: Memorial 10; Concord 16.
Fouls: Memorial 13; Concord 16. Fouled out - none.
Records: Memorial 3-3 (1-0 NLC), Concord 2-5 (0-1 NLC).
Next: Valparaiso vs. Memorial Saturday at North Side Gym; Concord at Jimtown Tuesday.
JV: Concord 30, Memorial 26. Top scorers: Concord - Luke Shoemaker 11, William Hayes 10; Memorial - Brandon Bailey 7, Daniel Brown 7. JV records: Concord 2-5, Memorial 2-4.