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The great players all want to be challenged. The time and location are almost secondary. Zion-Benton junior forward Milik Yarbrough knew that Taft offered a strong test as an opener to the new basketball campaign.
“We played them last year, and I guarded [Taft star guard John Joyce] the whole game,” Yarbrough said. “I knew he could shoot and we had to stay on him, and that the other guy [Joshua Doss] was a driver and we had to stay up on him.”
Yarbrough played up to his own exalted reputation by scoring 21 points and hauling in 12 rebounds as the Zee-Bees utilized runs at the end of the second and third quarters to defeat the Eagles 63-50 in opening day of round-robin play at Lane Monday night.
The 6-5 Yarbrough added three assists, two blocked shots and two steals in a strong showcase of his floor game. He muscled his way around the basket and also impressed with his speed and ballhandling in the open floor. He scored 11 points to help stake the Zee-Bees to a 27-21 lead at the break.
“I think I can get a triple-double anytime this year the team needs me,” he said.
Zion-Benton (1-0) outscored the Eagles 10-2 at the end of the second quarter and 10-3 at the end of the third quarter in seizing a commanding 45-34 lead after the third quarter. “I thought we played well in the middle quarters,” Zion-Benton coach Don Kloth said. “Taft’s a good team, and that was a good indicator of where we are to start the season.”
The matchup between Yarbrough and Joyce, two of the state’s top juniors, was upstaged by the Zee-Bees’ dominance on the offensive glass. Zion-Benton outrebounded Taft 34-18, marked by a 20-7 edge on offensive rebounds.
The commanding edge in offensive rebounding helped offset some spotty free-throw shooting (19-for-32) and 21 turnovers by the Zee-Bees.
“We just gave up too many offensive rebounds, and that led to too many second, even third, chances for them,” Joyce said. “We have to do a better job of boxing out and finding our men. It’s unfortunate, because I thought we did a pretty good job of executing.”
Joyce (21 points, six rebounds) is one of the city’s best outside shooters. His two three-pointers helped the Eagles (0-1) absorb Zion-Benton’s early dominance. Senior guard Doss added 17 points and seven rebounds for the Eagles.
Senior forward Kealin McLean added eight points and junior Chris Morange contributed seven points for Zion-Benton.