McComb gathers momentum, knocks off Calvert

Aaron Roth can relate to Ted Willman’s plight regarding the loss of a top player to injury.

To a certain extent, he can anyway.

As the 60-40 win Roth’s McComb Panthers posted Saturday against Calvert will attest, things are much, much better now.

“We had a starter out early, Dalton Buck didn’t play the first month of the year,” Roth said of his senior backcourt leader who averaged 13.4 points per game last year. “He had a broken bone in his leg and we started out something like 1-5 without him.

“Since then, we’ve gone 7-3 with a loss to New Riegel at the buzzer and to Liberty-Benton last night,” he said. “Honestly, if we can get some momentum going, we can be a dangerous team.”

The Panthers had plenty of momentum going early.

Cody Wilson drove for a layup on the opening possession, Jerry Brown fed Clay Grubb for a basket 25 seconds later and then Wilson took a pass from Taylor Reardon for another layup and it was 6-0 in a matter of 90 seconds.

All that after scoring just 19 points all night in a 57-19 Blanchard Valley Conference loss to Liberty-Benton Friday.

“(Friday) night, we came out a little tight, got down early and it seemed like nothing would go in the bucket for us,” Roth said. “Things just snowballed on us from there.

“That’s the good thing about basketball – you get beat Friday, but usually, you’re going to turn around and play again on Saturday. I told the kids that game’s over and there’s nothing we can do about it.

“Tonight, our first two plays against their man, we had two set plays and they both worked,” he said. “That really gave our kids confidence.”

The Panthers opened a 15-2 first-quarter lead with Wilson scoring six, Grubb four and Buck getting a couple assists. Buck then got into the scoring act with six points in the second period, when McComb pushed the margin to 32-12.

His value wasn’t lost on Willman, whose club is now 3-14 while having played the entire season without injured Nick Warnement, last year’s Midland Athletic League Player of the Year.

“It’s amazing what you can do when you have your No.1 guy who can get you into things out there,” Willman said. “Aaron and I talked before the game and he said, ‘We had the same struggle you had, but you’ve had to deal with it longer than I did.’

“Their athleticism at the guards was a big thing for them,” he said. “They close out so well. We just didn’t communicate out there and the first three possessions, they were up 6-0.

“We’re not good enough to make a big run against guards who are that quick,” he said. “We’re just not the type of team right now that can reel off 15 or so points on a team.”

McComb led by as many as 27 early in the second half at 43-16. Buck and Taylor Reardon each hit three 3-pointers in scoring 13 and 11 points, respectively. Wilson added 12 points and Grubb checked in with 10.

“When you have four players scoring like that, it makes it a lot easier for us,” Roth said.

Austin Perry led Calvert with eight points and six rebounds. Austin Ball added seven points while Brian Gruss, Mike Bennett and Jared Thompson each hit for six.

“Our effort wasn’t great in the first half but it was much better in the second half,” Willman said. “The outcome wasn’t what we wanted but it was good to see us respond in the second half. If you don’t, you get beat by 40. So it was good to see us respond.”