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High school basketball: Carthage shows how it’s done


With all the talent and depth on this year’s Carthage boys basketball team, coach Jeff Ventiquattro has been waiting for his Comets to put together a complete game where they showed their dominance.

Through the first seven games, stretches of greatness were good enough to keep the Comets unbeaten. But Monday night, against one of their chief rivals, Carthage put on a clinic of team basketball.

The result was an overwhelming 81-47 “A” Division road victory at Immaculate Heart Central that showed the full potential of a Carthage team that keeps looking more and more like a legitimate sectional contender.

Three different players scored 17 points — Andrew Smith, Keyan Pinnock, Walter Jeter — and Carthage (8-0 overall, 7-0 league) overcame a slow start to deal the Cavaliers (8-2, 5-1) a resounding defeat. The Comets dominated every phase of the game, recording 20 assists, 49 rebounds — including 24 on the offensive boards — and made 11 3-pointers en route to their most impressive victory of the season.

“The last couple of practices have been much more intense, so you could see the kids were taking this game very seriously,” said Ventiquattro, whose club is ranked 14th in the state in Class A this week. “I keep telling them that when they step on the court, they should believe they are the best team. Tonight, they showed why.”

That despite going scoreless over the first 3 1/2 minutes as the Cavaliers raced out to an 8-0 lead. After that, IHC had no answer as the Comets dominated the glass, executed their transition game to perfection, and took the Cavaliers out of their offensive rhythm with a stifling zone defense.

“They certainly have a lot of answers,” said IHC coach Mike Delaney. “They have got a lot of guys who can score, they handle the ball well, attack the boards and their bench was very effective Our strength has been turning teams over with our press, but they were too good for that.”

Jude Fusilli made a pair of early 3-pointers for iHC, which led 11-4 after a Robin Massey three. But Carthage scored 12 points over the next 1 1/2 minutes, including two 3-pointers by Pinnock and one by Peyton McLaurin, and all of a sudden the Comets were ahead 16-12.

The lead expanded to 24-12 before IHC scored again. Then Smith got hot, hitting three consecutive perimeter shots, and Carthage raced to a 42-22 halftime lead.

“We should never come out that tentative,” Ventiquattro said. “If you do that against the great teams, they’ll beat you up. Fortunately, we settled down, hit some shots and our defense took control.”

After scoring 26 second-quarter points, the Comets ripped off 28 points in the third quarter. That included seven fast-break hoops as they put the game out of reach with a 70-33 lead at the quarter break.

“This is how we should be playing every game,” said McLaurin, the superb junior point guard who scored only 10 points but dished out seven assists and grabbed eight rebounds. “Everybody was contributing and making plays.”

Three other Carthage players had at least three assists, Jeter and junior center Jake Redmore each pulled down 11 rebounds, and key reserves Dylan James, Tyler Clemons and JaeQuan McNeal also gave solid efforts.

“Peyton and Walt will be there every game,” Ventiquattro said. “The complementary players will make the difference for us. We were so unselfish tonight, always making the extra pass, that it looked easy.”

“Our goal is to make to the Dome (for the sectional final), and every game we try to get a little better,” McLaurin said. “Today, I think we took a huge step forward. Hopefully, we’ll continue to improve.”

That’s a scary thought for the Comets’ future Frontier League opponents.

Jude Fusilli scored 15 points and Massey added 12 for IHC.

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