By JOE CATULLO JR.
During practice, Mineral Ridge’s Nate Palmer practices driving the lane against 6-foot-6 teammate Ryan Nutter.
Mineral Ridge coach Chris Kohl told Palmer before Friday night’s game against Jackson-Milton that he wanted Palmer to attack the basket.
Palmer asked Kohl late in the third quarter if he was doing a good job.
“Yeah! Keep it up,” Kohl told him.
Kohl took Palmer out with 2:46 remaining in a game the Rams eventually won, 70-37. Palmer had scored a career-high 34 points and left to standing ovation.
“He’s fearless,” Kohl said. “He’s a football player too, so he’s not afraid of contact. Sometimes you hold your breath when he goes flying in there. He has the ability to finish, so I have a lot of confidence in him.”
To put Palmer’s performance in perspective, Nutter blocked six shots. He also helped keep the Bluejays (1-15, 0-11) to 27.9 percent shooting.
“If you can take contact from pretty much any of our big men, you can take contact from anyone in our league,” Palmer said.
When Palmer exited, Jackson-Milton had one more point. Kohl said he would have kept Palmer in if he knew the circumstances.
“I was told at one point that he had 29,” Kohl said. “I should’ve asked [my son] Scott how many points he had, but we wanted to get the younger kids in there, too.”
Palmer made 11 field goals (three 3-pointers) and nine free throws, accounting for 48.6 percent of the Rams’ (12-6, 10-2) points.
“Body control is the big thing,” Palmer said. “When you’re moving so fast, you take contact pretty well and get the ball where you want it. The lanes were open, and if they’re going to keep fouling me like that, I’ll keep going to the line. Free throws aren’t my big thing, but I try.”
The Rams started strong, allowing five points in each of the first two quarters and scoring 38.
“We like to pressure the ball, and that’s what we were going to do and try to limit their abilities,” Kohl said. “That’s how we want to play against every team, so that philosophy is what we’re trying to build our program around.”
The Bluejays made no 3-pointers and missed layup after layup.
“I think if we finished better, we’d be a whole lot more competitive,” J-M coach Gary Nagy said. “We just can’t seem to make a layup. Once we start doing that, we’ll be okay.”
After the game, Palmer said he’s going to Quaker Steak & Lube, celebrating the performance with his teammates. Only being a junior, Palmer eyes the school record.
“I think the school record here is 50 points in a game,” Kohl said. “Palmer said ‘I’ll get that coach, whether it’s this year or next year.’”