Jennings used his 6-foot-4 frame to perfection on Wednesday night, scoring all 19 of his points in the final three quarters to lead No. 7 Arlington to a 60-38 opening round win in the Division IV boys basketball tournament at the Eagles' Nest.
"We just couldn't stop the big kid," said Chelsea coach Mike McCullough. "Then when guys starting making [shots], we had to come out [to defend].
Up by three at halftime, Arlington (13-8) came out on fire in the third quarter. Led by Jennings, the Eagles went on a 13-4 run as the Red Devils, missing their second-leading scorer and rebounder in sophomore Wyatt Key, had no answer down low after sophomore Cody Hosmer was hit with his fourth foul early in the second half.
"They didn't have much size, and their big [guy] went down early," Jennings said. "After that, they didn't have anything inside which helped us."
Jennings had 10 in the quarter but he wasn't the only Eagle to get going offensively. Alex Hawley had six of his 18 points in the frame as Arlington extended the advantage to 44-29 heading into the fourth quarter.
In the fourth, Jennings asserted his dominance down low, hitting a layup and getting the 3-point play to start the quarter.
The Eagles came out flat in the first quarter and trailed 10-0 in the first four minutes as Chelsea's Brandon Poulin scored nine of his team-high 18 in the frame.
After coach Chris Taft took a timeout to regroup, Alex Trayah hit a three for the Eagles' first points. Arlington had an 11-3 run to end the first quarter down just two at 13-11. After the 10-0 run to start, the Eagles outscored the Red Devils 60-28 the rest of the way.
"We put in a defensive adjustment, going from the 2-3 zone to the 3-2 and that was part of it," Taft said. "They have a good scorer [in Poulin] and we tried to shut him down as much as possible."
"We got off to a real quick start, but those were the only outside shots we made," McCullough said.
Jennings was shut out in the quarter.
"He was anxious and rushing his stuff early on," Taft said. "But he's arguably the best rebounder in Division IV in the state; he grabs plenty of boards and he's right there to finish."
Arlington eventually tied the game at 16-16 when Olden Dwyer hit a trey, then gave the Eagles the lead with another three-ball late in the half.
"I think we had some jitters early," Taft said. "DJ and Alex had a rough first half and Olden and Trayah carried us in the first half. Everyone sees DJ as imposing and opponents think [we're] going to pound it in, but we have other guys that can score."
Arlington will advance to face the winner of the No. 2 Mid Vermont Christian School-No. 15 Websterville Baptist matchup that was postponed until today because of bad weather. That game will take place on Saturday at 2 p.m.