Central Catholic's Keith Towbridge (44) defends against St. Francis' Jay Snell (42).
St. Francis de Sales looked like the team playing its season opener, while Central Catholic appeared to be in mid-season form Friday night.
In the first game of the season for the Irish, they opened the 2012-13 campaign with a 16-2 run and never looked back. With its first two games postponed because of the football team's run to the Division II state title, Central came out on fire and built a 29-10 lead at the half.
The Irish showed no rust in cruising to a 59-32 home win.
Senior forward Deontae Cole scored 17 of his game-high 21 points in the decisive first half.
Cole knocked down five 3-pointers in the first two quarters.
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“You get that adrenaline rush and it gets you going,” Cole said. “It's a great night. It was a great transition [from football], better than our coach ever thought it would. They came in fast.”
Central (1-0 overall, 1-0 Three Rivers Athletic Conference) forced 14 turnovers in the first half to build a 19-point cushion.
“For our first game and not having the football guys for 10 days, it was pretty good,” Central coach Jim Welling said. “We had a great crowd. We just wanted to get started. We wanted to make sure we could get into some type of rhythm offensively and to do that we had to play good defense.”
The Knights (0-3, 0-2), who were playing in their second TRAC game, were paced by senior Jay Snell's eight points.
Five of Central's first six field goals were from 3-point range as they built a 17-point lead.
St. Francis turned the ball over four times over the first 2:17 and the Irish seized a 5-0 edge. Cole hit his first 3 just 1:45 into the contest.
The Knights then opened up a 10-0 lead as Cole had two 3 pointers and a steal that led to his easy layup. The Irish expanded that edge to 16-2 after one quarter as Cole drilled four 3 pointers.
“It was great passing from the guards,” Cole said. “I got hot, and they found me. I just got real comfortable, and I found the open shot. It wasn't that easy, we put a lot of hard work.”
Cole drained another 3 at the first-quarter buzzer and had 14 of his team's first 16 points.
“He is not a football guy, and he's had a great off season,” Welling said.
Two of the team's returning starters played key roles on the football team. Keith Towbridge, a 6-5 tight end, finished with eight points and seven rebounds. DeShone Kizer, the quarterback, had two points and four rebounds.
“Some of the guys are still coming along, and we will put in things for chemistry, so it might be a while,” Welling said
Central Catholic is the preseason favorite in the TRAC, while St. Francis has no returning starters from a team that went 2-12 last season.
“Turnovers have been the key in the first three games,” said first-year coach Travis Lewis. “We struggled just to get it in underneath our own basketball. But I thought we played great D. We just couldn't find a way to score.”
Overall St. Franics had 18 turnovers, but forced 13.
Central's Zach Pacer, who finished with eight points, knocked down a 3 pointer to open the second quarter as the Knights' lead swelled to 19-2
Snell finally stemmed the tide with a 3 pointer for the Knights. But the Irish forced six turnovers in the second quarter.
Central, which led 42-20 after three quarters, was up by as many as 30 in the second half. Nate Harris grabbed an offensive rebound and dunked it to give the Irish a 45-22 early in the fourth quarter.
The Irish play at Scott today.
“You can always do better,” Welling said. “We have a nice group of kids, and they've had a really good start to the season in terms of practices, especially at the defensive end.”
The Knights actually had a 32-24 edge on the boards led by Snell's six rebounds.
“They know their backs are against the wall,” Lewis said. “Once we get our back off the wall and initiate the intensity of the game, we will improve.”
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Central Catholic's Tom Vetter, left, and Zach Pacer defend against Jay Snell of St. Francis.