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By LARRY GOFFINET
ORLEANS—Perry Central’s boys basketball team never knows who its scoring leaders will be from game to game, or even half to half. So it’s hard for opposing defenses to key on anyone.
Friday Derek Thomas had the hot hand in a four-minute stretch in the second quarter that propelled the Commodores past Orleans 58-49 in a key PLAC game.
It was the Commodores’ first win on Orleans’ home floor since a 70-52 victory Jan. 25, 1997, when current Perry Central Coach Matt Carter was a senior for the Commodores.
The Commodores, ranked No. 9 in the state in Class 2A, improved to 10-1 overall, their best start since opening the 1997-98 season 13-0, and 2-0 in the PLAC. Orleans slipped to 8-6 overall and 2-2 in the conference.
Orleans led 13-11, though, after a three-point play on a press-breaking layup and free throw by Trey Bradley with 5:44 left in the second quarter.
Thomas scored 10 of the Commodores’ 12 points in the next four minutes, though, as they built a 23-17 lead.
He scored on a rebound shot to tie the game and hit a three-pointer from the wing to put the Commodores up 16-15.
After Murphy Wheeler hit an 18-footer for Orleans, Thomas hit another three-pointer from the wing to give the Commodores the lead for good, 19-17.
Teammate Tanner Cassidy followed with a steal and layup and Thomas scored inside to cap a 12-4 run for the Commodores, putting them up 23-17.
“Derek had a nice stretch in the second quarter where he got loose on the perimeter and hit a couple of three-pointers,” said Carter. “And he scored a couple inside baskets too.
“We have people who are very versatile offensively. And our balance makes it tough to prepare against us.”
Orleans did pull back within two points, 35-33, on a rebound basket by 6-foot-9 center Jacob Barkley (who really looks about 6-foot-7) with 7:42 left in the game.
Abe Schwartz replied with a three-point basket for Perry Central.
After an Orleans layup, Cassidy scored a three-point play on a drive and layup.
Schwartz and Thomas each added transition layups as the Commodores’ depth and quickness seemed to wear Orleans down at that point.
“Orleans did a nice job handling (Perry Central’s press),” said Carter. “We knew they would—they only had four turnovers at halftime. But we forced them into more (10) in the second half.”
Carter praised 6-4 Perry Central center Colten Hedinger’s blocking out against Barkley. “I thought Colten did a real nice job keeping a body on him. He only had four total rebounds.”
That helped Perry Central outrebound the Bulldogs 30-22 as Cassidy grabbed 13 and Thomas nine.
Thomas scored 17 points, Cassidy 13, and Schwartz 12. Cassidy and Hedinger each had three assists, and Hedinger blocked two shots.
Sophomore guard Cole Hall led Orleans with 18 points, including 9 for 9 free-throw shooting.
Though Perry Central won a key conference game on the road, “Paoli’s 9-2 and Crawford County’s 10-3 (each is 3-0 in the conference), so there are some tough games to be played in the conference yet,” said Carter.
Perry Central has both those games at home, though, beginning with Crawford County Friday at 7 p.m.
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Perry Central won the JV game 61-50 as Michael Schwartz scored 13 points, Dillon Hubert 10, Alton Cummings nine, and Trent Schraner eight.
Schwartz and Schraner each had three assists for the 10-0 Commodores.