PERRY TOWNSHIP – After winning three consecutive Northwest Central Conference crowns, Perry took a step back last year and finished tied for second in the conference with a 5-3 record and finished the year with a 14-9 overall mark.
But this year the Commodores are looking to reclaim the NWCC crown and face a tough test this week when they face Upper Scioto Valley Friday. Perry comes into the game with a 4-0 mark in the NWCC and 9-3 overall record and USV sports an unblemished 3-0 mark in the conference and a season record of 8-3.
The Commodores’ three losses this year are to Shawnee (12-1), Wapakoneta (10-2) and Delphos St. John’s (9-4).
“Right now we have put ourselves in a position were we have won four of our eight league games and we have we have four games to go but obviously this is a big one because USV or us has won the league the last five years. Whoever wins this game doesn’t win the league but takes a big step towards it.”
The Commodores have gotten to this point on the strength of team chemistry, team defense and a little experience under their belts.
“We did finish 14-9 on the season and a lot of kids got a lot of valuable minutes,” Perry head coach Matt Tabler said. “We just didn’t have a lot of experience last and honestly we did lose three guys from last year.”
The lumps the players took last year has paid off and the seniors this year were joined by a highly touted freshman group and the two factions seemed to have found some common ground.
Returning to this year’s squad were seniors Jamal Whiteside, Louis Hoersten Martel White and Bradley Walker and junior Chazz Johnson. Joining them were senior Rashad Davis sophomore D’yonte Parker and a trio of highly touted freshmen Terry Riley Ryan Yingst and Will Knight.
Whiteside’s 18.6 point average leads the team in scoring and is tops on the team in assists with an average of 7.8 assist a game. Jackson is second on the team in scoring and owns a 13.8 point scoring average.
“Our expectations were high coming off a 14-win season and then mixing in three or four freshmen over the summer who have been successful since the second grade and they are getting minutes and our senior has really helped them.”
Tabler added the senior leadership has been tremendous.
“Every play whether it is at practice or at a game I see a senior talking with a freshman and now the freshman are a little more outspoken and they are starting to tell the seniors what they are seeing and when you play six seniors, one junior and three freshmen you get a little nervous how they are going to blend.”
Recently, Tabler said he received what he considered was a big compliment when a parent told Tabler that she has was impressed with how the team supported each other and played together. Tabler asked her what she meant and she responded that when the junior varsity is shooting the varsity is their to support them and when one of the Commodores players hits the floor the other Perry players are quick to help him up.
“That is something you cannot teach,” Tabler said. That is something that has to be within the kids and we have a group of kids that have blended well together.”
On the court, Tabler said one of the main strengths is defense. For the year, the Commodores are giving up an average of 44.5 points a contest and have held seven of their opponents to 50-points or less. In their last game, Perry held Riverside, who came into the game averaging 45 points, to 26 points.
“I think our biggest thing was our kids buying into our defense,” Tabler said. “Our goal is to give up single digits in every quarter and we obviously know that is not going to happen and we want to do it at least 50 percent of the time and in the 48 quarters we have play we have held teams in 15 quarters to single digits.”
Tabler adds that this is still team developing and while they will have its hand’s full with a physical USV squad the Perry head coach said this is part of the process with room for improvement.
“Once we get the basics down we can get a little more complicated with trapping and rotations and things like that and we are starting to do that and it is starting to show in the scores.”
Perry is riding a three-game winning streak and have given up an average of 36.6 points.
“The ceiling is never too high for us and we want to keep getting better and better because if we are playing our best basketball at the end of the season because at the en d of the season and make a deep tournament run” Tabler said. “It is nice win the league but there is nothing like making a deep tournament run.”