By Zach Baker
OLD FORT - For a while Thursday night, it appeared Old Fort's Hunter Perry would shoot whenever he was open. And it didn't matter where he was on the floor. If the defense relaxed against him, Perry tried to make St. Joe pay.
And the Streaks usually did.
Perry became the first player with at least 41 points in back-to-back Midland Athletic League games. He had 41 Thursday in a 61-48 win over the Streaks.
Perry was asked if he's looking to shoot every time he gets the slightest opening.
"I try not to," said Perry, who also had 11 rebounds. "Sometimes I do, but coach [Eric Hoover] gets on me for that."
Hoover never took Perry off the court, much to the chagrin of St. Joe.
"We tried everything we could defensively,"said Streaks coach Jonathan Will, sounding eerily similar to interim North Baltimore coach John Kloepfer after his team's game against Old Fort last week, when Perry scored 55 points. "We threw everything we had it him. We tried three different defenses. Let's just give him credit where credit is due. He was that good tonight."
St. Joe came out solid, forcing Old Fort into six turnovers in the game's first three minutes and building a nine-point lead late in the period. Hunter Harrison's layup with 1:02 left in the first put the Streaks up 17-8.
"We were just nervous handling the ball early on, and I don't know. We just couldn't take care of the ball," Hoover said. "They did a great job of breaking our pressure, and they were getting easy ones. They were getting layups off of our turnovers and layups off of our presses."
So Hoover adjusted things.
"We had to go make it a half-court game, which isn't something we look to do," Hoover said. "It worked out, especially when Hunter has the ball in his hands."
What followed was dominance from the the Stockaders that lasted the next 7:51 of game time. A 23-0 run from which St. Joe didn't recover.
Perry started the run with a 3, cutting the St. Joe lead to 17-11, where the game stood at the first stop.
Then the second quarter started. The scoring, which all came from Old Fort, looked like this:
* Perry jumper.
* Jon Lotycz layup.
* Perry 3.
* Perry layup.
* Perry jumper.
* Perry layup.
At this point Old Fort led 24-17. The barrage continued.
* Two Brad Bannister free throws.
* Perry three-point play.
* Perry jumper.
Finally, a jumper from the Streaks' Ben Linke broke up the surge. Old Fort led 31-19, with 1:51 left until the half.
"I knew we made a big run, I didn't realize it was 23-0," Hoover said. "But we'll take it."
Perry said he knew the Stockaders were surging, but didn't know by how much.
"I had no idea, whatsoever," he said.
Will said the Streaks went away from what was successful for them in the first quarter.
"We've got to play through our posts," he said. "The ball never got to our post guys. We settled for jump shots. I know, the first four possessions for sure [of the second quarter], we settled for 3-point jump shots. That's not our game. We've got to get the ball inside."
To that point, the Steaks missed their first eight shots of the second quarter, and turned the ball over nine times in the period. For the game, they shot 22 of 69 from the floor.
But despite Old Fort's run, Will reminded his players they were within striking distance, down 31-20 at halftime.
"We felt like we were still in the game and had a chance," he said. "But then the start of the third quarter, (Old Fort) went on that nice little run there."
Perry continued to make shots. He made three of his six 3s in the third, and the Stockaders lead grew as big as 22 - 46-24 - after a Perry trey from the left wing.
The Streaks did rally, cutting the Old Fort lead to 56-46 in the fourth quarter, but Perry and the Stockaders were too much.
"A lot of coaches would sit here and tell you they're upset," Will said. "I'm so proud of our kids, because we could have just crumbled right there. That lead could have went from 24 to 40 in a heartbeat."
Hunter Harrison's 10 points led St. Joe (2-1, 1-1 MAL), while Ryan Williams had eight points and a game-high 14 boards.
Old Fort only had four players score. Bannister had 10 points as OF improved to 4-0, 2-0 in the MAL.
The Stockaders biggest issue Thursday night was turnovers. They had 24 miscues.
"Luckily we had a big enough lead to hold on," Hoover said after watching his squad get outscored 18-11 in the fourth.
But again, the story was Perry. He made 17 baskets, and only one free throw to get to 41 points.
"All in all, I think I did OK for shooting tonight," he said.
We still have a little more than two weeks left on the calender, but that may go down as the understatement of the year.