Perkins and St. Mary Central Catholic made sure Friday's Sandusky Bay Conference matchup lived up to the hype.
Brett St. Clair drained a deep 3-pointer with nine seconds left to play to tie the Panthers and Pirates up at 62. But the Panthers ultimately handed themselves their first loss when they sent the two-time SBC Outstanding Performer Nic Williams to the line with seven seconds to play. The senior drained both and Perkins kept it's perfect conference record intact with a 64-62 win at the Plank.
“I was just trying to get the ball down the court, but I was relieved they fouled me,” Williams said. “I was surprised he did, he just tackled me.”
Williams had a game-high 21 points, including seven fourth quarter free throws, and 15 rebounds in the win.
“Everybody is hype from this win,” Williams said. “I haven't played in an atmosphere like that since playoffs last year, and it's crazy when you can hear people talking to you on the sideline.”
By halftime of the junior varsity game, the gym was standing room only.
“What a great atmosphere for a high school basketball game,” Perkins coach Scott McVeigh said. “When the corners of the gym are filled, that's a good feeling. For the freshman game it was getting packed and our JV coach (Ryan Kurt) was talking about the JV team getting to play in front of a big crowd. You only get better from that. We've played on a lot of big stages in the last three years and this is right up there.”
The Pirates (8-2, 7-0) never trailed, but had to fight off some late surges by the Panthers, especially after losing Nic Williams late in the second half to foul trouble.
“With Nic off the floor in foul trouble, our ball handlers were a little bit passive. Give SMCC credit, they created turnovers and got points off it,” McVeigh said.
With Williams off the floor early in the fourth, SMCC went on a 14-7 run, capped off by a St. Clair three and Denarius Harris free throw to tie it up at 55-all.
Williams came back in and scored the next four points while Trenton Zimmerman added a jumper to make it 59-57.
The Panthers called a timeout and Melvin Jackson was fouled on the ensuing play and sank both freebies to tie it up again.
Williams made 3-of-4 free throws in the next 20 seconds and called a timeout immediately following.
The Panther fan section erupted on St. Clair's 3-pointer with nine seconds left and SMCC called a timeout.
“First thing going through my head was the defensive breakdown,” McVeigh said. “We didn't have the wing covered. We set up a 1-3-1, talked about what they were going to do and then just were too low on it. I give St. Clair credit for taking that shot. He hit some big three's tonight and that was a huge one for them.”
Lucas Will was called for the foul against Williams in the back court with seven seconds left.
“I don't think we did (foul him),” SMCC coach Lyle Falknor said. “We went out to him, but that's just a judgement call I guess. We just couldn't keep Williams off the line.”
Will drove the lane with five seconds to play, but couldn't find the net. The ball got loose and SMCC was faced with an out-of-bounds possession with one second left.
Chase Green tipped the inbounds pass and it fell into Williams hands to seal the deal.
“I got to give Coach (Matt) Smith a lot of credit. They have a baseline out of bounds with no timeouts left and he said put Chase Green on the ball and he'll get a touch,” McVeigh said. “One second left, Chase got a touch and that was it. I give him a lot of credit. All that goes to Coach Smith, that's not me.”
Denarius Harris led the Panthers with 20 points and six rebounds. He had a rebound and putback in the first half that allowed him to eclipse the 1,000 point mark in his career.
“Denarius has been a very good player for me for four years. He is just a great kid who works hard and loves the game,” Falknor said. “This year I have been really pleased with his sharing the basketball. He really looks to pass and get it to the open person and I think that makes us a better team.”
McVeigh also touched on the Panthers' balanced offensive attack.
“They have a very good program and Lyle has got them playing well,” he said. “I am impressed with their unselfishness. They share the ball well, they are tough defensively and they help each other out.”
Kyle Lewis added a double-double for the Pirates, tallying 14 points and 10 rebounds in some crucial minutes when Williams was out with foul trouble.
“He controlled the post I thought we had definite advantage inside,” McVeigh said of Lewis. “Kyle had some nice moves, very patient offensively and didn't force a lot. He was very efficient tonight offensively. Nic goes down with some fouls and he stepped up for us. That's what we needed.”
The Pirates shot 37 percent from the field.
Matt Schweinfurth also had 10 points, while Green tallied six points and seven rebounds. Dale Irby added seven rebounds.
“We are where we want to be, 7-0 in the league at the halfway point,” McVeigh said. “I got to give all the credit in the world to my kids, they never put their heads down and never quit. They kept fighting possession by possession. One thing we talked about was just playing tougher than them. It was a fight out there and we took some hits, but made some shots and hung in there. I am really proud of how my kids came through tonight.”
Zimmerman finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds for SMCC, which shot 30 percent from the field on the night. St. Clair finished with 12 points and five rebounds, and Jackson finished with 10 points and two steals.
“This is the best team we've played so far but there are other good teams in the league too,” Falknor said. “We are just going to have to regroup a little bit.”