Frank and Pope lead Panthers past Washington
Washington led defending state champion Mt. Pleasant for much of the first quarter of Friday’s game between the Southeast Conference rivals.
But then Panthers Cameron Frank and Faith Pope connected on the first of several highlight reel-worthy plays.
With just under two minutes remaining in the first quarter, Frank threw a behind-the-back pass to Pope, who laid it in to give Mt. Pleasant a 9-8 lead. The Panthers never trailed the rest of the way, blowing out Washington 65-38.
“They have a lot of guys who can play,” Washington head coach Bryce Smeins said. “The two guards who played last year, Frank and [Dalton] Conrad, are both very good players. Obviously the Pope kid can play a little bit. He can jump out of the gym and he had some nice dunks for them. They have a lot of guys who are pretty good, and they have a deep bench. They’re a very good basketball team.”
Mt. Pleasant (6-2, 4-0 SEC) led 11-8 after one quarter of play, but Washington sophomore Daryn Sebelius drove down the lane for a layup to start the second quarter and trim the lead to one. Mt. Pleasant senior Logan Mulford answered with a 3-pointer, but sophomore Thomas Bump hit a runner at the other end to keep the lead at two. The Demons stayed close, and senior Kyle Roder’s driving layup kept Washington within three midway through the second quarter.
But that’s when Frank found Pope again. He tossed an alley-oop to the 6-foot-6 senior, who dunked it home. The jam sparked a 7-0 Panther run, and Mt. Pleasant led 29-19 at halftime.
“I’ve got to give him oops,” Frank said of Pope. “He can jump.”
The Panthers stretched their lead in the second half. After Roder got a steal and a layup to start the second half and trim Mt. Pleasant’s lead to eight, senior Ryan Hanna scored inside, Pope stole the ball and dunked it, and Conrad hit a 3-pointer to push the Panthers’ lead to 15.
Senior Logan Mulford threw down a one-handed dunk in transition to open the fourth quarter, and then after Frank got a steal, he threw an alley-oop off the backboard to Pope, who flushed it home to stretch Mt. Pleasant’s lead to 20 points. The Panthers shared the ball beautifully in the second half, shooting 52 percent from the field in the game’s final 16 minutes.
“Rotating the ball, getting lobs, going to the paint — it’s just team chemistry,” Pope said.
Frank finished with 14 points and eight assists.
“A lot of what we do starts with Cam,” Mt. Pleasant head coach Paul Rundquist said.
Frank was just one of four Panthers to finish in double figures. Hanna also scored 14 points, and he grabbed six rebounds. Mulford nailed a pair of 3-pointers and scored 13 points, and Pope finished with 12 points and nine rebounds.
“So far I’m seeing a very unselfish team,” Rundquist said. “They’re passing the ball around and passing it back for other kids to score. We have a relatively mature team right now and they’re working hard.”
Bump knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and scored a career-high 10 points, and Roder also scored 10 points for the Demons (1-8, 0-4 SEC). Junior Alex Coker chipped in eight points and seven rebounds.
Coker’s 3-pointer tied the score in the game’s opening minute, and senior Justin Hoffman’s three-point play put Washington ahead 6-3. A steal and a layup by Coker gave the Demons an 8-5 lead, but Mt. Pleasant scored the next three baskets to take the lead for good.
“I thought we played hard in the first half,” Smeins said.
Once the Demons fell behind, they seemed to lose patience on the offensive end. Washington shot just 31 percent from the field in the contest.
“We got in a hurry,” Smeins said. “Against pressure like that, you’ve got to take your time and have some good cuts to the basket. We just got in a hurry and threw the ball away.”