BOYS BASKETBALL: Central rebounds from early hole to sink Peotone
PEOTONE — Despite an inauspicious start, the Central Comets have began the Brent Offill era 2-0.
After taking their first lead in the closing seconds of the first half, the Comets pulled away and held on for a 48-41 nonconference road victory at Peotone on Tuesday.
“I didn’t think we came out with much intensity to start the game, and that was huge,” Offill said. “We couldn’t run our offense, but we really rely on our defense.
“[Peotone] got some 3s there at the end, but I thought our defense overall was pretty decent.”
That Comets defense Offill spoke highly of was in full force Tuesday, stumping the Blue Devils with a full-court press that upped the pace and, in turn, turnovers.
The Blue Devils had 25 turnovers on the night, which coach Eric Peppmuller said was the difference maker in the long run.
“We coughed up some basketballs throughout the game, and I think that, ultimately, turnovers cost us,” Peppmuller said. “But the guys fought so hard; they wanted to win one for the people who came out to support them.”
After falling in an early 10-5 hole and struggling to find open looks, the Comets found themselves with just 11 points near the end of the half.
But thanks to that stout defensive performance, they were still in it at 14-11, and by the time Jay Lemenager’s floater fell through just before the halftime buzzer, the Comets took their first lead of the game into the locker room at 15-14.
Offill said in just the second game of the season, it took his youthful team, which features three sophomores and four juniors, some time to get going, which resembles the program from a macro level as well.
“I’ve got some young guys, guys who haven’t been coached yet, but we’re getting there,” Offill said. “We’ve just got to slow it down on offense and keep the defensive game upbeat.”
The Comets continued to find their rhythm in the second half on both sides of the court. They struggled with turnovers just as much as the Blue Devils early on, as each team had 12 first-half turnovers.
The second half was a different story. The Comets cut their turnovers in half with six in the second half and still forced 13 on the defensive end.
“We talked about that at halftime, that we have to evaluate each possession,” Offill said. “We want to run with patience — if we steal the ball and give it right back, it’s like kicking ourselves in the leg.
“We talked about getting a good possession on defense, stop and get our breath, and run something offensively.”
The Comets stretched their lead to double-digits on a few occasions once brothers Darryl and Jayson Harris got going. After scoring a bucket apiece in the first half, the two forwards each made four shots in the second half to finish with 10 points each.
“It was nice to see my bigs working well together,” Offill said. “They’ve got a little familiarity as brothers, but we’d been trying to get that action all night with our bigs dropping it down, and they finally connected.”
But the Blue Devils didn’t quit when hit with a double-digit deficit and even cut it to as close as 38-36, when Kyle Gasik hit his second 3-pointer in a minute with 2:23 on the clock.
“Kyle’s a great athlete and a good shooter,” Peppmuller said. “We never give up; we never stop. … We try to impress that on them, to just keep going.”
In the end, the Comets held on. Kyle Peters went 4 for 4 from the free-throw line in the final minute to help seal the deal for the Comets.
“We went on that run at the end and then made some big free throws from Kyle Peters,” Offill said. “It was nice to see us come through in the clutch and run our stuff when we had to.”
Jacob Shoven led the Comets with 11 points. Jayson Harris added six rebounds to his 10-point effort, and Darryl Harris complimented his 10 points with five rebounds, two assists, five steals and two blocks.
Dylan Bettenhausen led the Blue Devils with 11 points. Danny Walsh, Gasik and Logan Heflin each scored seven points.
The Comets open up Sangamon Valley Conference play at Watseka on Friday. The Blue Devils look to overcome an 0-5 start when they kickoff Interstate Eight Conference play with a home tilt against Westmont on Friday.