By: Tuesday and Friday
Tim Preston scored 25 points to lead the South Panthers to a convincing 70 - 62 victory over Central. Heading into this game it was tougher for Central to match up with South than it was for South to matchup with Central. This become apparent as the game wore on. More on this factor later. Tim Preston started the game on fire as he scored 12 points in a variety of ways in helping South grab a 17 to 14 first quarter lead. Preston hit a 3, dribble drived with 2 finishes, hit a medium range jumper and knocked down 2 FTs after being fouled on a shot attempt.
Central was lead by Brett Hanson who had 5 first quarter points. Now, normally the slithery snaky sophomore can out maneuver most teams he plays against. On this night it was tough for him or any Central player, not named Pelletier, to out physical or out strength the Panthers as a whole. This is what makes it extremely difficult to match up with South. The Panthers take advantage of incidental contact as good as any team in the state. You have a Kevin Love-like Jack Preston. He swallows defensive rebounds whole and then makes a quick outlet release to his brother Tim to get the South fast break going. You have solid David Dunham who is wide and strong. He can step out to hit a 3, which he did twice in the 2nd quarter. You have a physical Trevor Knight, who forces the play, rebounds and gets after loose balls.
It was this strength and team depth that enabled South to outscore Central 18 to 10 in the 2nd quarter and carry a 35 to 24 lead into halftime. In the first half the Central backcourt of Dickson, Hanson and Plentzas combined for 11 points. South's backcourt of Preston, Auger and Knight combined for 18 points. It wasn't so much the 7 points the South backcourt outscored Central by. It was the loose balls the South backcourt garnered. it was the muscling off the ball the south backcourt did to the Central backcourt. It was South taking advantage of legal incidental contact to impose their basketball will on Central.
Troy Pelletier and Dawson Dickson heated up for Central in the 3rd quarter. Pelletier had 9 points in this stanza. Dickson knocked down a couple of 3's including his 2nd one with 3:09 left which brought Central to within 4 points at 42 to 38. It was the closest Central had been in a while. Preston, Knight and Dunham combined to help push the lead back up to near double digits. A signature play at the end of the 3rd quarter defined what this solid Panther team is about. With South having a 54 to 45 lead and with the ball and 20 seconds left in the quarter Tim Preston brought the ball up over half court. He tried running down the time for a last shot, but was double teamed by Plentzas and Hanson. Preston somehow escaped the pressure up double team and started driving to the hoop. Dunham's man came off him to negate Preston's drive. Preston calmly found Dunham as the clock ticked down. Dunham drains a 3 at the buzzer to give South a 57 to 45 lead heading into the 4th quarter. It was a thing of beauty for Preston to get 3/5ths of Central's defense to commit to him and give the ball to Dunham for a good look which he buried.
Central made a couple of runs at South in the 4th with Pelletier leading the way with 11 points. South hung onto to the solid lead for the majority of the 4th quarter. It became a foul shooting contest for South with just under 3 minutes to go in the game. Central fouled early and often hoping to capitalize on giving up 1 to 2 made FTs in order to get a quick 2 or 3 at the other end. South shot 11 for 14 from the FT line in the last quarter to put the game on ice.
Troy Pelletier kept his hat firmly in the POY ring with 27 points. It was not easy for Pelletier to get these points. He had to work through the strong Panther bodies of Jack Preston, Dave Dunham and Trevor Knight to collect these points. The Central backcourt combined for 21 points. The South backcourt combined for 44 points. South has a strong team in more ways than one. They have a quality starting 5. They bring 6'2 Penkala off the bench along with 6'2 Ortolano. South not only has strength and size in their starting 5, but they can bring people off the bench that can take advantage of incidental contact also and wear you down.
The line in the D1 seeding sand has been drawn. Avoid South at all cost in the #2 & #3 part of the semi final bracket. South plays at Londonderry this Friday. Central has a bye on Friday. Next Tuesday they play Trinity at home, which now has very high stakes attached to this game. The winner will have the upper hand for the #1 seed and avoiding South in the bracket until the potential Championship game. The loser will more than likely have to get by South to get to the Championship game. Intra city game. #1 seed at stake. Every time they play it is an emotionally and physically exhausting game between the Pioneers and Little Green. It is a very bitter pill to swallow for the loser. This drama will play out Tuesday Feb. 26th at 6:30 pm in the Simon Gym.
2 last observations on the South - Central game:
1) Where were all the fans tonight? For the longest time oxygen occupied the majority of the bleachers at the Simon Gym. It was a sad reality to see how sparsely attended this Marquee matchup was. I guess the majority of fans just wait for the playoffs.
2) A couple of weeks ago Jack Preston was one of the favorites for POY. Now, little Bro Tim is coming into the POY talk with impressive play. He is stirring the Panther basketball drink rather nicely. He controls the tempo for South. If Tim and Jack tie for the POY will they settle it in a one on one game or will Mr and Mrs Preston get the tie breaking vote? The race for POY is very very interesting at this point.