A 38-18 second half explosion by Swanton’s offense helped them come together and put away a stingy Delta team on the road, 64-41, in NWOAL boys basketball action on Friday.
“We felt pretty comfortable like midway through the third quarter, we were controlling the game,” said Bulldog coach Matt Smith after the game.
“You can tell, we are starting to get our basketball legs. We are gelling a little bit. I think we’ve got a chance to run off some wins here if we keep playing. (I) have seen some big improvements from the first game on. We still have lapses, but if we can play four quarters, we are tough to beat.”
Swanton’s Gunnar Oakes, who led all scorers with 22 points, scored six in the opening quarter as the Bulldogs led 17-8 after one.
Delta’s Evan Vasquez began the second quarter with a basket on a drive, but Oakes’ jump shot and a score from Swanton’s Devin Jones made the advantage 13 at the 3:59 mark.
“Swanton was a little bit more successful tonight at slowing the game down. (They) got us out of what we wanted to do,” commented Delta interim head coach Jeremy Lohman. “We were being a little selfish with the basketball and allowed them to control for about a quarter and a half of that game.
“What didn’t help is we couldn’t hit a shot in the first half. We had every open look we wanted to in the first half, we just couldn’t throw it into the ocean tonight.”
However, the Panthers did get hot after that, cutting their deficit to 25-15 with a three pointer by Bowen Green and a pair of free throws for Marc Callahan around Bryce McComb’s jumper for Swanton. Delta then got a layup from Ron Vargyas before Vasquez buried a three to pull the Panthers within five with 1:22 left in the half.
Swanton’s Antonio Cervantes split a pair of free throws to make it 26-20 with 47 seconds to go, but a Noah Parsons triple for Delta closed the half at 26-23 in favor of the Bulldogs.
“Honestly, it isn’t anything that we don’t do all the time,” explained Lohman of his team’s second quarter success. “It is our basic zone sets that are effective when you are hitting shots. And in the second quarter we were just hitting shots.”
But, after Green scored inside to cut the Bulldog lead to one only 21 seconds into the third quarter, Delta’s offensive struggles returned. McComb got the Bulldogs going with a bucket off his own miss, then Robbie Gilsdorf scored on a pass from Mark Lair and also added two free throws to put Swanton on top 32-25 at the 6:33 mark.
Coach Smith was not at all surprised by his squad’s second half surge. According to him, the Bulldogs just needed to stay with it.
“They were shooting a lot of jump shots and threes, and we just told our guys ‘hey weather the storm,’” he said. “We are getting inside buckets and they’re taking threes. The law of averages is going to work out.
“We didn’t finish well, but I thought we did a good job of getting our misses. We had a lot of shots where we missed inside and then we just went and got it. We were more physical than Delta and I think that was really the key to the basketball game.”
Callahan drilled a triple to pull Delta back within four, however, Oakes’ three-point play and coast-to-coast layup, plus a triple by McComb extended the Bulldog lead to 40-28 with 3:44 to go.
The Panthers made one last run at it with a line drive three from Callahan and a triple by Parsons around Oakes’ turnaround jumper to get the margin to under 10. The Bulldogs and Oakes responded as he hit on consecutive shots which made it 46-34 after three.
Four points for Jones, a bucket for Oakes, and a finger-roll layup by Vasquez made it 50-36 with 6:22 left in the game. However, Jones converted a putback basket after grabbing the rebound on his own miss twice, while Oakes got a steal and threw down a dunk which pushed the advantage to 54-36 at the 5:28 mark.
“That was kind of the nail in the coffin right there because the crowd got into it and everyone’s fired up,” said Smith. “That is a big momentum play.”
After Oakes, Lair had 11 points and Jones added eight. Vasquez paced the Panthers with 12 while Parsons had eight.
“They are a good team,” concluded Lohman on Swanton. “They have been playing together for years. And they’ve all been on varsity for years. They are a very solid team who is big at every position.”
Swanton returned to action on Saturday when they traveled to Lake and came away with a 54-45 victory. The Bulldogs now host Evergreen this Friday.
Max Householder can be reached at 419-335-2010