The Kirkwood Eagles will need strong performances from their reserves this season if they want to seriously pursue their goals of winning conference and national titles.
They took a big step in the right direction Tuesday night.
The 14th-ranked Eagles got a big boost from their subs in a 94-69 victory over Black Hawk College at Johnson Hall.
Kirkwood's bench brigade topped their own starters in points (48-46), rebounds (24-23) and assists (11-7) and helped the Eagles take control in the second half.
The Kirkwood starters played well, and the Kirkwood reserves played even better.
"I thought they were the difference in the game," said Coach Bryan Petersen. "They gave us good energy and they were productive, and that's what we talked about in the locker room.
"You look down the line at what they were able to do, just from scoring the ball, rebounding and sharing the ball for us. They had a great night. That's probably the best our bench has been all year."
Bailey Kale, a freshman point guard from La Crosse, Wis., led the subs with 18 points, four 3-pointers and three assists. Jay Small, a freshman guard from Hinton, popped in a pair of 3-pointers at a key juncture in the second half and finished with 12 markers and six rebounds.
The Eagles (5-2) also got a spark from freshmen Jalen Taylor and 6-foot-10 center Kyle Arrington, both of whom contributed six points and five rebounds off the bench, along with Justin Storey, Taejuan Johnson and Semaj Ray.
"The best teams we've ever had here - our championship level teams - we've been deep. That's key," said Petersen, who steered Kirkwood to the 2016 national title. "It was a step in the right direction tonight with that."
Chris King, Kirkwood's starting point guard, took scoring honors with 19 points. Doug Wilson provided 12 points and eight rebounds, while LJ Stansbury, Carlo Marble and Tajen Ross all contributed five points in the starting lineup. Stansbury and Ross had six rebounds.
Kirkwood's subs outscored Black Hawk's reserves, 48-21.
Kale played 25 minutes in relief, partly because Marble got into early foul trouble.
"When the bench came in, I thought we did a good job of keeping the pace up and just playing as a team and doing the right things, and obviously it worked," said Kale.
Kale knows his role on the club as the back-up point guard behind King.
"Taking care of the ball, hitting open shots and just getting it to teammates ," he said. "Being a freshman, I'm just trying to learn every day and things like that.
"I really watch Chris (King) when he's in to see how he does things. It's good to have somebody like that to look up to."
Kale originally committed to Minnesota-Duluth, an NCAA Division II school, but changed his mind and began the recruiting process again. Petersen pounced and got his man.
Kale said he had several offers from NCAA Division I schools to join their team as a walk-on, but decided Kirkwood was the right place to be.
"I knew this was where I wanted to be," he said, "where I can build as a person and as a basketball player as well."
Petersen is glad Kale is on their side. The rookie is averaging 6.7 points after netting his career-high Tuesday.
"He's just solid," the coach remarked. "When we got him, we were very excited about him. It was nice to see him break out. He's a very good shooter and he shot the ball well tonight.
"Seeing him take a step in the right direction tonight was really good to see."
Kirkwood owned a 47-33 lead at halftime, but Black Hawk pulled within five points at 47-42 with a 9-0 spurt to begin the second half by attacking the basket.
Arrington helped restore order with a pair of baskets that made it 56-45 with good work around the basket. Kale hit a 3-pointer to make it 59-47, then Small drilled a pair of 3-pointers to make it 65-47.
Stansbury hit two free throws to make it a 20-point bulge at 67-47 with 12:17 left to finish a 15-2 run. Black Hawk never got closer than 14 points again.
Corielle Robinson scored 21 points for Black Hawk (3-5).
BLACK HAWK (69): Robinson 7 6-9 21, Freeman 0 0-0 0, Neville 6 4-4 16, Pauley 4 1-1 9, Fuller 0 2-2 2, Maris 2 0-0 6, Murrill 3 2-4 8, Walker 0 0-0 0, Henseler 1 0-0 3, Clark 0 2-2 2, Martin, 0 0-0 0, Anderson 1 0-0 2. Totals 24 17-22 69.
KIRKWOOD (94): Stansbury 0 5-6 5, Marble 2 0-0 5, Ross 2 1-4 5, King 6 5-6 19, Wilson 6 0-0 12, Kale 6 2-2 18, Small 3 4-5 12, Ray 1 0-0 2, Taylor 3 0-0 6, Johnson 0 0-0 0, Storey 2 0-0 4, Arrington 2 2-2 6. Totals 33 19-25 94.
Halftime - Kirkwood 47, Black Hawk 33. 3-point goals - Black Hawk 4 (Maris 2, Robinson 1, Henseler 1), Kirkwood 9 (Kale 4, King 2, Small 2, Marble 1).