Panthers jump out to quick lead, down Washington
MT. PLEASANT — Mt. Pleasant scored the first 14 points of Friday’s Southeast Conference boys’ basketball game on its way to a 62-36 win over rival Washington. With the victory, the Panthers claimed sole possession of the SEC crown for yet another season.
“We played with a lot of energy,” Mt. Pleasant head coach Paul Rundquist said. “From the beginning, we really communicated well. It was a team effort.”
Cameron Frank, Logan Mulford, Faith Pope and Ryan Hanna each scored for Mt. Pleasant in the first half of the first quarter.
Meanwhile, the Panther defense kept the Demons from getting decent shots as Mt. Pleasant took a 14-0 lead.
“Our biggest struggle was Mt. Pleasant’s defensive pressure,” Washington head coach Bryce Smeins said. “They did a great job of keeping pressure on us, and we didn’t handle it well.”
Washington senior Kyle Roder ended the Panthers’ run when he put two points on the board for Washington with 3:30 left in the first, and he hit a 3-pointer 40 seconds later to make it 16-5.
Washington senior Justin Hoffman put in a jumper with just a few seconds remaining in the quarter to make it 16-7, but then the Demons hit a dry spell once again as the second quarter started, allowing the Panthers another 14 unanswered points for a 30-7 advantage.
Once again, Frank, Pope and Hanna contributed a few points each to the run. Then, after Washington sophomore Thomas Bump sank a floater in the paint, Mt. Pleasant junior Trey Magnani stole the ball and laid one up and Mulford scored from deep.
“The key was playing good defense, moving the ball around and getting good shots — just the simple stuff,” said Mulford, who finished with 13 points on the night.
Mulford was one of three Panthers in double figures, led by Frank with 18. Pope also put 13 points on the board, and Hanna finished with nine.
Washington outscored Mt. Pleasant in the second half, 26-25, aided by a pair of 3-pointers from Alex Coker early in the third quarter and another one in the fourth. Coker finished with a team-high 13 points. The Demons ultimately fell far short of a win, but Smeins was impressed with his team’s persistence.
“We kept playing hard,” he said. “We had a great effort down the stretch — we didn’t quit, and we scored some baskets early in the fourth quarter. We just have some things to work on.”
The Demons are now 5-14 on the season and finished 1-7 in the SEC.
The Panthers are 15-5 overall and 7-1 in the conference, good enough for the SEC title — a title they’ve claimed for a number of consecutive seasons now. Rundquist isn’t sure exactly how far back the streak goes, but it’s at least six years.
“[Winning the conference] is always one of our goals, but we still have others we’d like to accomplish,” Rundquist said. “We’d like to keep improving, and I think we are (peaking) at the right time of the season. Every day we want to get better.”
The Panthers host Marion on Tuesday, and Washington hosts Williamsburg.
“Against Williamsburg, we need to show a little more focus and intensity on both ends of the court,” Smeins said. “We can’t get down 14-0.”