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By LARRY GOFFINET
REO—Austin LeClere’s hot inside game in the second quarter propelled Perry Central past South Spencer 73-52 in the fifth-place game of the PSC Holiday Classic basketball tourney Monday.
Many considered this a battle between the two favorites in their Class 2A sectional this year, and it shaped up as a close game early.
The Commodores led only 22-17 with 5:04 left in the second quarter when their center, Dillon Hubert, picked up his third foul and had to leave the game for the rest of the half.
They had already been facing a height deficit, and center is the only position for which they don’t have an experienced backup.
So naturally Coach Matt Carter turned to 5-foot-9 forward LeClere to do battle with 6-foot-5 South Spencer center Isaac Hebner.
“When Dillon goes out, I’m next strongest on the team so I go to the middle,” said LeClere (whose combined bench press, squat and power clean weightlifting total in football was 925 pounds).
“I just try to body up to them and use my jumping ability. I jump pretty well for a short guy.”
LeClere proceeded to score 15 points in the next 41⁄2 minutes on six inside field goals and three free throws.
Two of those baskets came on drives, including one on which he grabbed a defensive rebound and went all the way to the other basket before the Rebel defense really got set.
He scored another one on an offensive rebound. But the other three came on nice post-up moves, with assists from Dacota Schaad, Michael Schwartz and Trent Schraner.
LeClere had 18 points (on 7 of 8 field-goal shooting and 4 of 6 free throws) and nine rebounds in the first half as the Commodores built a 20-point lead.
Schaad scored the Commodores’ first eight points in the first 2:33 of the third quarter as they extended their lead to 50-24, and it was game over.
LeClere finished with 20 points, Schaad 17, and Andrew Huber 12.
LeClere grabbed 10 rebounds as the shorter Commodores got outrebounded by only one.
Schraner had seven assists and Huber and Schwartz each added four.
Moving the ball well helped the Commodores outshoot the Rebels from the field 50.9 percent to 41.7 percent.
“That’s the best we’ve moved the ball for four quarters all year,” said Carter. “The first two games of the tourney we were kind of stagnant on offense and didn’t have real good ball movement.”
On defense Carter “loved our energy all night. Our man-to-man was so good we just kept with it. We didn’t even press that much, as far as trying to trap.”
Reserve Malin Webb led 6-2 South Spencer with 10 points.
Hebner added nine points and eight rebounds but was just 1 for 6 from the field in the first half, with LeClere guarding him much of the time.
“Austin did a good job going straight up and making him shoot over the top,” said Carter.
Perry Central, 7-1, will visit Forest Park 7 p.m. Jan. 11.