ALBANY — Consider Kyler D’Augustino ready for the upcoming high school basketball season.
D’Augustino led Alexander in every category as his junior year tipped off on Friday, a 76-58 win over the visiting Belpre Golden Eagles.
“I thought he played very well,” Alexander coach Jeff Skinner said. “I know he can play better.”
The Golden Eagles will likely be glad not to see D’Augustino again this regular season if the Alexander standout has better games ahead of him.
D’Augustino scored 38 points on 14 for 29 shooting to go with 13 rebounds, five steals, four assists and two blocked shots.
D’Augustino has been a starter since his freshman year, and was a third-team All-Ohio selection last season.
He relentlessly pushed the pace against Belpre (0-1), able to get to the rim with ease or pull up for a jumper.
Skinner said continuing to master the speed at which to play with is something D’Augustino can improve on even more.
“Instead of just trying to blow by all the time, when he gets better with his retreat dribble and changing speeds, he’s going to be impossible to guard,” Skinner said.
D’Augustino had plenty of help against Belpre. Alexander (1-0) had three other players in double figures, led by 6-foot-4 senior Braydin McKee.
McKee had 14 points — including a pair of thunderous dunks — to go with 10 rebounds.
McKee started his basketball career at Alexander before playing the last two seasons at Nelsonville-York. He’s back with the Spartans for his final season.
“When he runs the floor, he can really run,” Skinner said. “He had a huge impact and he had a really good opening game for his return to Alexander. We’re pretty tickled about it.”
The duo of McKee and D’Augustino could certainly give opposing defenses problems this season.
“They hang out a bunch together,” Skinner said. “For early in the season, they played pretty well today.”
Junior Alex Norris had 12 points on 5 of 6 shooting, adding two assists. Junior Jagger Cain also had 10 points and five rebounds, as he made a pair of 3-pointers.
When the Golden Eagles rightfully decided to focus more defensive attention on D’Augustino, the Spartans had other players step up.
“When they decided they were going to guard him with two or three people, to take him away, our other guys found solutions,” Skinner said. “We’ve been working hard at finding solutions offensively when other teams do that. I think we have enough experience and enough offense that out other guys will be able to step in and do that regularly.”
The Spartans also have 6-foot-6 junior Zach Barnhouse back this season. He had two points in the opener, as Skinner said Barnhouse is still recovering from offseason knee surgery.
“Our goal is to play him as much as we can and continue to get him into shape,” Skinner said.
Belpre was able to score with Alexander for most of the first half before failing to keep pace. The Golden Eagles made nine 3-pointers, as senior Matthew Deems and junior Jake Alkire each scored 14 points.
Belpre led 15-8 early in the first quarter before Alexander ripped off a 22-1 run.
The surge started with consecutive D’Augustino 3-pointers, followed by a breakaway dunk for McKee.
Cain’s 3-pointer allowed Alexander to lead 21-16 after one quarter.
D’Augustino capped off the big run with a pull-up jumper before making three free throws after getting fouled on a long-range shot.
When the dust settled on the run, Alexander led 30-16 with 6:23 left in the first half.
The Spartans led 35-26 after D’Augustino scored on his own breakaway dunk. Cain’s 3-pointer put Alexander ahead 45-35 at halftime.
Alexander put on an offensive show in the first half, making 16 of 34 from the field with D’Augustino pouring in 23 points.
However, it was the Spartans’ defense that ultimately allowed them to pull away from the Golden Eagles.
Belpre was scoreless for the first 5 minutes and 50 seconds of the third quarter, allowing Alexander to build a 54-35 lead after another D’Augustino jumper.
“I just think more than anything we settled in defensively,” Skinner said. “It’s hard to play defense when you’re nervous and have those first-game jitters. Belpre did a really good job of driving the ball at us. They drove the ball at us and kind of got us on our heels a little bit.”
Alexander’s largest lead was 23 points at 72-49 after a Cain field goal late in the fourth.
Skinner credits assistant coach Denton Guthrie for playing a role in getting some of the Spartans ready for the upcoming season. Skinner noted that three Spartans who were full-time JV players a year ago received major minutes on Friday.
“It was all because of the preparation he does every day, having that all last year and him knowing what it takes to be a varsity basketball player,” Skinner said.
The Spartans are looking to build off of last season’s 9-11 record. Skinner had the chance to have a full offseason with the group. D’Augustino is a year older, McKee is back in Albany, and Alexander’s role players are ready to step into the spotlight.
Alexander’s next test is at Eastern on Tuesday.
“We had an offseason where we had high participation,” Skinner said. “It’s gotten us a little ahead of the game where we were last year at this point. Most of that is we just had more time together.”
Alexander 76, Belpre 58
Belpre 16 19 5 18 — 58
Alexander 21 24 11 20 — 76
BELPRE 58 (0-1)
Matthew Deems 5 1-1 14, Nick Lambert 3 1-4 7, Tucker Liston 2 0-1 5, Jacob Smeeks 3 0-2 9, Blake Church 1 2-2 4, Derek Liston 1 0-0 2, Jake Alkire 5 3-4 14, Chris Copen 1 0-0 3; TOTALS 21 7-14 58; 3-point field goals: 9 (Deems, Smeeks 3 apiece, Liston, Alkire, Copen 1 apiece)
ALEXANDER 76 (1-0)
Jagger Cain 4 0-0 10, Braydin McKee 6 2-2 14, Kyler D’Augustino 14 8-11 38, Alex Norris 5 1-1 12, Zach Barnhouse 1 0-0 2, Dylan Allison 0 0-0 0, Jace Ervin 0 0-0 0, Isaac Morgan 0 0-0 0, Stanley Viny 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 30 11-14 76; 3-point field goals: 5 (Cain, D’Augustino 2 apiece, Norris 1)
TEAM STATISTICS/INDIVIDUAL LEADERS
Field goals — Belpre 21-61 (.426), 3-point field goals 9-25 (.360); Alexander 30-62 (.484), 3-point field goals 5-17 (.294); Free throws — Belpre 7-14 (.500), Alexander 11-14 (.786); Rebounds — Belpre 38 (Lambert 8), Alexander 40 (D’Augustino 13); Assists — Belpre 10 (Deems 3), Alexander 10 (D’Augustino 4); Blocks — Belpre 0, Alexander 3 (‘D’Augustino 2); Turnovers — Belpre 18, Alexander 12; Steals — Belpre 6 (Church 3), Alexander 11 (D’Augustino 5); Team fouls — Belpre 8, Alexander 15; JV game — Belpre 49, Alexander 25.