Once the East High boys found their rhythm, it went from snow time outside to show time inside as the Panthers defeated Canfield, 65-51.
The halves were day and night as Canfield (13-3) established a 31-25 halftime lead before East (12-6) took the reins during the final 16 minutes.
“We didn’t play our game,” East’s first-year coach Dennis Simmons said. “We didn’t play remnants of our game because we’re making some adjustments in our lineup. We’re trying to get some guys who haven’t played all year to adjust and learn the system. We didn’t play our game the whole first half.”
Simmons was referring to adjustments necessitated due to the absence of three of his top players: Jamir Humphrey, Jarel Gadson and DeAndre Smith.
Other senior regulars, Deontay Scott and Taylor Johnson, picked up the slack with 23 points apiece, while juniors Terrel McClain and Marquis Cotton added 11 and 10 points, respectively.
“We want to get the ball up and down and get the ball inside,” Simmons said. “We want to play a faster pace and pound the ball inside. We still have a long way to go.
“We’re trying to adjust to a lot of lineup changes and it showed. We’re trying to right the ship. We’re getting it, but it’s a process.”
Based on his team’s second-half recovery against Canfield and the prospect of being at full strength down the road, Simmons said: “We play everything from November to February to prepare for the tournament. That’s a team we could possibly see come March.”
Jarret Vrabel had 17 points and Cole Prysma added 15 for Canfield, which had the upper hand throughout the first half.
Then the bottom fell out.
“It’s tough to win basketball games when you score two points in a quarter,” Canfield coach Todd Muckleroy said of the third period.
“I think their offensive rebounds kind of compounded our problems, as did turnovers. They continued to score at will and we just struggled to stop the bleeding. That’s something East is capable of doing with their athleticism, but, had we made a couple buckets, it might have been a little different.”
What did Muckleroy expect his Cardinals to encounter in the second half?
“We knew that East was going to come out and pick up the pressure a little bit,” he said. “We looked to get the ball to spots and looked to get it to the middle, then reverse it, trying to get shots.”
Muckleroy was complimentary of Scott’s offensive rebounding power, but Vrabel dominated the inside, too, especially on the defensive glass in the first half.
“We know he [Scott] prides himself on getting offensive rebounds and, when it puts it back, he puts it back and makes it,” Simmons said.