Elks out­last Pan­thers to keep early win streak alive

Cecil Whig - - SPORTS - By ADRIAN MARTIN

Spe­cial to the Whig

— The way Elkton head coach Joe Zang gen­er­ously threw fresh bod­ies onto the floor, it was no sur­prise that one of them stepped up at the end.

Im­pos­ing ju­nior Travias “Tazz” Smith used his 6-foot-5, 270-pound frame to his ad­van­tage, scor­ing six of the Golden Elks’ fi­nal eight points in their 7167 non-divi­sional home win over county ri­val Per­ryville, Wed­nes­day night.

Smith was one of sev­eral play­ers to re­join the bas­ket­ball squad af­ter the foot­ball team made it all the way to the 2A ti­tle game. He came in mainly to guard

ELKTON

Per­ryville’s big post man, Tre­shawn War­ren, but he drained a pair of put-backs in the fi­nal two min­utes — the lat­ter with just 14.1 se­conds left — that kept the Elks (3-0) in front. Smith was one of six bench play­ers, and 10 over­all, to score in the game.

“I don’t know if we win the game with­out those two re­bounds he had,” Zang said. “He’s a big body and he’s been here be­fore, and it’s fun to watch him play. It’s fun to watch all those big guys down low play. I’m blessed to have a lot of size on this team. He was the one tonight, but it could be some­body else tomorrow.”

Both teams came in loaded with tal­ent and ex­pe­ri­ence and bat­tled with play- off in­ten­sity. Nei­ther group could get a de­fin­i­tive edge and headed into the fourth quar­ter dead­locked at 4949. The Elkton de­fense then pro­vided that edge, forc­ing sev­eral Pan­ther turnovers that led to tran­si­tion bas­kets, and the re­sult­ing 8-0 run gave the Elks a 61-53 ad­van­tage. It was the largest lead of night for ei­ther team.

“In De­cem­ber, you might not have all your sets in, you might not have all your X’s and O’s down, but you can pres­sure and you can play de­fense, which is what we’ve been preach­ing since day one,” Zang said. “You saw some rust early on, but I think they hit a groove in the sec­ond half on de­fense.”

Per­ryville (2-1) got five quick points back with Dennis John­son’s long 3-pointer and two free throws fol­low­ing a tech­ni­cal foul. The score stayed un­com­fort­ably close un­til Smith’s first put­back and a steal and layup from Ja’Quian Wes­son made it 67-61 with 90 se­conds to go. Pan­ther se­nior point guard Dom Gugliotta nearly brought his team back, sink­ing two of three free throws and a layup, but Smith sand­wiched a reg­u­lar bas­ket and a put-back around a Per­ryville miss to put the con­test away.

“Coach told me I had to box out [War­ren] be­cause he was phys­i­cal on the re­bounds. I had to help my team­mates out, and I was at the right place at the right time,” Smith said with a smile.

The two squads had their of­fenses fir­ing on all cylin­ders in the first half, both av­er­ag­ing nearly 20 points per frame. They also com­bined for 10 3-poin­t­ers.

Per­ryville led 39-37 at the break, but the of­fenses fell back to earth and early De­cem­ber in the third quar­ter, fail­ing to crack the score­board for more than four min­utes. Pan­thers head coach Charles Givens, Sr., said his play­ers never fully re­cov­ered from that drought, par­tic­u­larly when Elkton took the lead for good.

“They played well through­out the game with the ex­cep­tion of a pe­riod in that fourth quar­ter when they went away from what they’ve done and just started throw­ing the ball away,” he said. “We have some ballplay­ers and we have a good pro­gram at Per­ryville, and ba­si­cally we want to be com­pet­i­tive. Thus far, we’ve shown we can be com­pet­i­tive with any­body.”

Gugliotta scored a game­high 18 points for the Pan­thers, while John­son and Nick Roberts chipped in with 16 and 12, re­spec­tively.

De­spite com­ing off the bench and sit­ting out most of the third quar­ter due to foul trou­ble, Ryan Thompson led all Elkton scor­ers with 15. Chino Per­nell was close be­hind with 14 and two steals. Amaz­ingly, the Elks did not make a sin­gle foul shot in the game. All four of their at­tempts came in the fourth quar­ter.

Elkton will soon have all of its play­ers back, mak­ing it even more dan­ger­ous against up­com­ing op­po­nents.

“It def­i­nitely gives us con­fi­dence, but we’ve got a re­ally good Ne­wark (Del.) team that we have to play in a Christ­mas tour­na­ment on Fri­day,” Zang said. “All we can do is learn what we did wrong and build on our mis­takes. It’s great to be 3-0 right now, but we’re play­ing for March.”

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