The tape around David McKenzie's right hand lasted until midway through the second quarter.
After missing two consecutive uncontested shots, the Central Islip junior point guard grimaced, shook his hand in the air and finally ripped off the tape that protected a blister and tossed it toward the sideline.
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He then nailed two jumpers, including a long three-pointer, in the quarter, and finished with a career-high 24 points to lead host Central Islip over Northport, 57-49, Friday in the League II opener for both teams.
"It was hard to play with it on and it was bothering me a bit," said McKenzie, who looked more comfortable after removing the tape. "My shooting was a bit off with it on and I needed to soften my touch."
McKenzie's touch noticeably improved. He made 7 of 10 free throws during the fourth quarter for the Musketeers, who maintained at least a six-point lead throughout the second half.
Central Islip opened with a 14-2 run, utilizing an aggressive press, which enabled McKenzie to force turnovers and lead a fast-break offense. Yet behind the sharp shooting of guard Austin Marchese, who finished with 17 points, Northport cut the deficit to 18-14 after the first.
The Tigers, however, never managed to get any closer. Forward Devon Solomon scored six of his 10 points in the third quarter and Central Islip's two-three zone forced a bevy of poor shot attempts.
In the middle of that zone was Malcolm Pridgeon, a 6-7 center who had eight points and eight rebounds, including four in the fourth.
"Malcolm is very important for us," coach James Mott said. "He's being recruited as an offensive lineman and his basketball skills are improving."
Brandon Hodge was another reason why Central Islip preserved its lead. He scored 11 points, including eight in the fourth. "I just had to get into a rhythm," Hodge said.
That was also true for McKenzie. "Oh, absolutely," Mott said. "This was his best game."
McKenzie said he may have to use the tape again, until his blister is fully healed. Midway through the fourth quarter, it was his right leg that began to give him some trouble as a trainer attended to him. Much like the blister, though, McKenzie doesn't believe it will be an issue.
"I started to cramp up a bit but that's just a once-in-a-while thing," McKenzie said. "I just got to eat my bananas."