JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – The Bucs opened the 2023-24 season and the Brooks Savage era with a win over Division-II King on Monday night.

Savage became the 14th ETSU head men’s basketball coach to win his debut contest.

“Hopefully there’s a lot more,” he said with a smirk, “or I’ll be in trouble.”

The Tornado scored the first four points of the game, but Savage called his first timeout after Amarius Beasley scored the first two on an offensive putback.

Delaware transfer Ebby Asamoah drained three triples in a row to give the Bucs an early 11-4 cushion. However, the home team was unable to gain real separation until the close of the first half.

JUCO transfer Quimari Peterson came up with a few coast-to-coast buckets in the first frame, as the Blue and Gold led 38-23 at the break.

Jaden Seymour found Jadyn Parker on a give-and-go to open the second half scoring, as Parker rocked the rim with two hands. The second-half lead grew as large as 21 points, but the visitors never faded.

The Tornado twice cut the deficit to ten points, with under ten minutes remaining.

“It was there about the under-eight media [timeout] and I was like ‘guys this is the end of the game if you want it to be,'” Savage said. “‘If you don’t, we’ll go to the wire with this thing.'”

“They responded,” he continued. “The thing that I liked, it was their talk in the huddle.”

The Bucs did enough down the stretch to earn the 73-56 win.

Neither team shot the ball particularly well as King made just 29.4% (20-68) of its shots, while ETSU hit at a 36.8% (25-68) clip. The Tornado also out-rebounded the Bucs, 53-46, as the Blue and Gold conceded 18 offensive boards.

“They just were tougher than us in the first half and kind of picked it up in the second half,” Peterson said. “We’ve just got to be tougher.”

“They played hard, played good, played well – so credit to them just for like competing,” Seymour said. “We probably could have played better, but they brought it to us and we just got to respond better, to be honest.”

Peterson led the Johnson City squad with 15 points, adding six rebounds and three steals. Seymour notched his first double-double of the season with eleven point and 14 rebounds.

Asamoah (14 pts) and Justice Smith (11 pts) also finished in double figures.

Jordan Akal led King with 12 points, chipping in six rebounds, as well.

ETSU (1-0) faces its first Division I opponent on Thursday, as the team travels to Elon for a 7 p.m. tip-off. The Tornado (0-1) continue their campaign at UVA Wise on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.