By Greg Gulas
The Boardman High offense picked the wrong time to go south.
With Massillon Perry quietly eying archrival Massillon Jackson this Friday and the thoughts of avenging an earlier league loss to the Polar Bears, the Panthers’ defense picked the right night to make a defensive statement.
Jeremiah Jackson had a game-high 20 points and dished out eight assists, while Drew Tormasi and Connor McHenry added 12 and 11 points respectively as the Panthers defeated the Spartans, 68-25 in Federal league action Tuesday night.
“We take every opponent seriously and knew what we had to do if we expected to beat Boardman,” Jackson said. “Despite the score, they really played a very physical game and we needed that. The last time against [Massillon] Jackson we got beat physically and tonight the game was just as physical. That tells me that we have improved defensively.”
Tormasi scored 10 of his 12 points in the opening period as the Panthers (12-3, 5-3) raced to the 19-2 advantage and never really looked back.
Jackson then added seven points and McHenry six in the second frame as Massillon Perry built a 38-10 halftime advantage.
“We’ve worked on our defense all year and tonight, we kept the ball in front of us which kept us on our toes,” Panthers coach Paul Wackerly said. “Hopefully we can build on this effort and become a more consistent team.
“[Jeremiah] Jackson is our floor leader and a very good high school basketball player. Believe it or not, he actually didn’t have his best game tonight. Drew on the other hand plays tough at both ends of the court and is one of our team leaders as well.”
Seven points by Jackson helped Massillon Perry to a 16-8 edge after the intermission as the Panthers increased their lead to 54-18 with one period remaining.
Massillon Perry then reeled off the first eight points of the final quarter for their largest lead of the game, 62-18.
A triple by Paul Benson and buckets by both Preston Stitt and Brannon Williams helped Boardman (3-9, 1-7) close with a 7-6 run as they lost for the fourth consecutive time and the fifth time in six outings.
“We really picked the wrong night to struggle offensively,” first-year Spartans coach Pat Birch said. “Massillon Perry is an excellent team and they’re a program that we want to be like. It’s a gap that we want to close — a challenge that we all realize is going to take plenty of hard work.”
According to Wackerly, the score wasn’t indicative of the way the Spartans played.
“Pat does a great job and he’ll get the program on track, but it takes time and I hope everyone is patient with him,” he said. “I respect Pat a lot and have sat with him at great length as we’ve shared ideas and coaching philosophies. They’ll start to get done what he wants, but it just takes time.”
The Panthers, who swept the season series with Boardman, held the Spartans to their fewest points in every quarter this season while their 25 total points was also a season low.