NORTON: Ben Dunlap has this in common with Ernie Banks: He wants to play two.
After Friday’s 76-55 dismantling of Norton, a three-time Portage Trail Conference-Metro champion, the Kent Roosevelt coach was ready to get back out on the court and play Wednesday’s tournament game against Wadsworth right then and there.
Unfortunately, he’s going to have to wait. But that doesn’t mean something can’t be taken from this win heading into the postseason.
“We hope to carry this over and keep this feeling going,” Dunlap said. “If we continue to learn from our earlier season losses and have efforts like this, our season’s going to go on for a little while.”
Norton coach Rod Swartz thinks his team might have gone into coast-mode with the league championship already wrapped up.
“They’ve been kind of coasting in practice all week,” Swartz said. “That’s something we try to overcome because we’ve played well all year and they’ve kind of settled in place. I just don’t think our kids were in the right state of mind, unfortunately. But we’ll recover. We’re a senior-oriented team and we’ll be ready for the tournament on Wednesday.”
Early on, neither team looked particularly ready.
The score was just 7-2 seven minutes into the game in favor of the Rough Riders.
“I was really worried,” Dunlap said. “At the beginning of the game after the first couple possessions, I didn’t know if we were going to score 20 points the whole game. ”
The Rough Riders (12-10, 8-4) eventually found their groove offensively, scoring 21 points in the second quarter, including a 10-0 run to end the half with a 31-18 lead.
That carried over into the second half when a 12-0 run extended their lead to 47-23 with two minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The Panthers (16-6, 10-2) barely made a run at the Rough Riders until late in the fourth quarter when bench players were in the game, something Dunlap credits to the strong play of his defense.
“You’re always worried with them that they’re going to get hot and they’re going to start knocking some shots down,” Dunlap said. “But we really didn’t give them many uncontested shots after the first quarter. We were making them put the ball on the floor and do some things they didn’t necessarily want to do.”
The Rough Riders racked up 16 assists, led by seven from Phillip Grant and four from Spencer Neubert. This led to four Rough Riders scoring in double figures with a fifth having nine.
“We are a very balanced team,” Dunlap said. “When we share the ball and make that extra pass we can play with anybody.”
Myles Wright led the Rough Riders with 23 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks.
Joseph Watts scored 13 points with nine rebounds. Neubert scored 10 points with seven rebounds and four assists and Grant had 11 points, seven assists and five boards.
Justin Blanks led the Panthers with 23 points.
“When you’re league champions, everybody wants to beat you,” Swartz said. “And it will make their season when that happens. You’ve just got to be able to withstand it. I think more than anything it was mentally we didn’t withstand what they were bringing at us tonight. I hope it is a wake-up call.”