Nic Williams left no doubt.
Neither did the rest of the Perkins boys basketball team in Wednesday's Division II district semifinal against Lexington at Mansfield Senior High School.
The Pirates (21-3) jumped out to a 19-5 lead at the end of the first quarter, and never looked back in an impressive 66-52 win over the Minutemen (16-9). With the win, Perkins advances to the district championship game for a third straight season, where it faces a third meeting with Norwalk (24-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday back at Pete Henry Gymnasium.
(NOTE - To see pictures from the game, click HERE.)
Williams scored eight of his team's 19 points in the first quarter, including a pair of 3-pointers that quelled any type of Lexington momentum in the early going. He finished the game with 21 points and 14 rebounds.
"I started out quick with the threes and was trying to get my teammates involved," Williams said. "Once we got the early lead, we just wanted to contain it the rest of the game and keep it at double digits. That made it easier for us, because then they have to go on a big run to get back in it."
Also key in the first quarter scoring spree was Dale Irby. Known for his defense more than offense, Irby put in five straight points in the opening quarter, and also shot 8-of-10 from the field for 20 points to help the Pirates.
"Dale played really well, and Kyle (Lewis) did too," Williams said. "I was expecting that out of Kyle, but Dale really stepped up."
After Lexington's Joey Zahn opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer, Williams and Irby essentially put the game away in the next 90 seconds that followed. Williams answered the Zahn triple with a 3-pointer of his own to make it 22-8, then irby went off again, drilling another 3-pointer, followed by a steal and layup in transition to make it 27-8 with 5:58 left in the half.
The Minutemen played to a stalemate the rest of the half, but the damage had been done.
"We really executed offensively, especially when they went to a man defense," Perkins coach Scott McVeigh said. "We set solid screens and got the ball inside. Nic, especially in the first quarter, man, what a great job he did getting us going at the offensive end."
Almost as if it was expected, however, the Minutemen had another run in them, and looked like the team that had beaten Mansfield Senior twice in the regular season, and Ontario in last week's sectional championship.
The Pirates were plagued by foul trouble most of the night, but it really got out of control in the third quarter with Williams, Lewis and Chase Green each picking up third fouls early. That allowed led to Lexington attacking the basket more aggressively, and it went on a 14-5 scoring run that allowed them to pull within 42-32 on a Zahn 3-pointer with 1:51 left in the third.
After another Perkins turnover, Lexington had a chance to get within single digits, but could not connect. Perkins then finally found itself again offensively, as Irby and Lewis put in a pair of scores, then Williams scored on a slicing layup to make it 48-32 less than a minute into the fourth quarter.
Lexington drew no closer than 12 points for the rest of the game.
"I have to give props to a lot of kids tonight defensively, but Dale Irby … I know I talk about him a lot, but he did a really nice on their guard (Zahn)," McVeigh said. "He was solid, but they had to work for everything. They had a nice run there, which we knew they would, but we did a great job of composing ourself there in the third quarter, getting stops when we needed them, and getting a couple key buckets to extend it back out."
Lexington featured a roster with four players taller than 6-foot-5, which is a concern for any coach, but McVeigh singled out Lewis as a key to canceling out the Minutemen's size.
"I thought we did a nice job on their big kids, Kyle especially," he said. "They are dangerous and have some kids with some talent inside. We forced them to a lot of contested jump shots as well. We rebounded well when we ran the floor, which is when we were at our best."
Lewis added 14 points and five rebounds, and Matt Schweinfurth hit some key 3-pointers and finished with 10 points to give the PIrates four players in double figures.
McVeigh talked about facing Norwalk for a third time, with a spot in a third straight regional semifinal at stake. Norwalk beat Perkins twice in the regular season, 66-59 on Dec. 17 and 77-68 on Feb. 8.
"I really liked Norwalk when they were in Division I. That says everything," McVeigh joked. "But we'll see them for a third time, and when you know each other that well and you play someone three times in a year, it's going to be a grinder. I expect that again Saturday."