Peyton McLaurin was the final piece to Carthages Frontier League championship puzzle.
When the smooth 6-foot-3 sophomore transferred in from Erie, Pa., the Comets went from a pretty good team that figured to contend for an A Division title, to the team everybody expected to claim the crown. His scoring and leadership, especially when he was moved to point guard, helped catapult Carthage into its first league championship since 1998.
McLaurin scored 21 points Saturday, and top-seeded Carthage pulled away in the second half to beat No. 3 Indian River 58-49 at Jefferson Community and add the A Division playoff crown to its regular-season title. The Comets (17-1) have now won 15 straight games, in large part because McLaurin has fit so well into coach Jeff Ventiquattros system.
Peyton sees the entire floor, hes smart and always under control, Ventiquattro said. For what we do, hes a great complement to the other guys on the floor.
Junior forward Walter Jeter scored 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds, junior guard Andrew Smith added 12 points, and junior guard Keyan Pinnock contributed nine points as Carthage beat the Warriors (13-5) for the third time this season.
Trailing 23-21 at halftime, Carthage scored 12 of the final 16 points of the third quarter. to pull ahead for good.
McLaurin said he thought the Comets would be pretty good when he first began practice with his new teammates. I wasnt sure if wed be this good, but weve really played well together and learned from each other, he said.
Ventiquattro started McLaurin at shooting guard because of his ability to make perimeter shots. But when the Comets had trouble handling pressure and turning the ball over early in the season, he handed McLaurin the ball and the Comets have been more consistent ever since.
I played a little point in middle school, McLaurin said. But I was confident I could do the job, and coach has helped me learn the position.
McLaurin, Ventiquattro said, has made the other players a lot better. Now they know if hes open, he will get them the ball. And hes really learned how to control our offense.
McLaurin is also leading the A Division at 16.2 points per game. Hes made 33 3-pointers, and perhaps most importantly, hes gotten to the foul line quite a bit. Over the last four games, McLaurin has hit 18 straight free throws, including an 8-for-8 performance on Saturday.
I thought I could give this team scoring and leadership, he said. And my length on defense has also been a factor.
Indian River coach Tim Callahan said he is impressed with McLaurins poise.
He never seems to change emotionally, and just handles everything really simply, Callahan said.
Callahans Warriors used pressure defense to force 12 first-half turnovers and take a two-point lead into intermission. But Carthage attacked the pressure better the second half, and Indian River stopped making shots.
Pinnock scored four straight points, Smith hit a jumper and a driving hoop, and Jeter made two free throws and a 3-pointer in the final four minutes of the third quarter as Carthage took a 40-34 lead.
They basically outscrapped us the first half, Ventiquattro said. We changed to a man-to-man defense, and I think that forced them to take some quicker shots.
Shelton Williams scored 17 points, Marcus Keys 12 and Justin Mattingly 11 for Indian River.
In the D Division semifinals, No. 2 Sackets Harbor beat No. 3 Copenhagen 54-36, and top-seeded Lyme rolled past No. 4 Alexandria 78-38. The winners will play the rubber match of the season series at 8 p.m. Monday at JCC for the championship.
SACKETS HARBOR 54, COPENHAGEN 36
Sophomore forward Colton Belcher scored 15 points and grabbed 12 rebounds as the defending champion Patriots (12-5) earned another title berth.
Belcher, who was a reserve during Sackets Harbors run to the state Class D championship last season, has been coming on strong after a concussion kept him off the court for much of the summer and fall.
I really missed five or six months, and put on about 20 pounds, Belcher said. But now Im back in shape and feeling great. And Im starting to play like I knew I could.
Coach Jeff Robbins said Belcher is starting to assert himself underneath and on the boards, and thats what we really need.
Josh Keruski scored 11 points, Kyle Gonseth had 10 and Zach Rousseau contributed nine points, 12 rebounds and six blocks for the Patriots, who raced to a 19-8 first-quarter lead.
Sophomore Antonio Figueroa paced Copenhagen (6-11) with 16 points.
LYME 78, ALEXANDRIA 38
Senior Darius Reed told Lyme coach Leo Wilson he was feeling it before the game. Was he ever!
Reed scored a career-high 28 points as the regular-season champion Indians (13-4) scored the first 14 points and routed the Purple Ghosts (5-12).
Junior Troy Wilson matched Reed with 28 points for Lyme, which beat Sackets Harbor 56-25 in the first meeting over Christmas break, but lost 51-42 at home last week.
Coach Wilson said Reeds production is a key for his club moving forward.
It takes a lot of pressure off Troy having to do too much, coach Wilson said. Darius can score, but sometimes he isnt aggressive enough looking for his shot. Tonight, he really was.
Reed, who was averaging just 8.3 points per game, said, I hadnt been shooting well, but in warm-ups I was making everything so I told coach. Scoring 17 in the first half, Ive never done that.
Timmy Morrow added 10 points for Lyme. Zach Heschke scored 12 and Ian Kearns 10 for Alexandria.