It wasn't pretty, but that didn't matter to Central Catholic coach Mike Padgett last night after his Fighting Irish kicked off the high school basketball season with a 57-47 win over Northview at the Sullivan Center.
The Irish overcame 26 turnovers by playing solid defense and, despite relatively poor offensive execution, managed to shoot 51 per cent (18 of 35) from the field.
Central, which started four juniors, got 13 points from 6-5 guard Andy Mix, 12 from 6-2 forward Manga Shuman, and 11 from 6-1 guard John Thomas. The only senior starter, 6-4 center Andre Gould, added nine points and seven rebounds.
“I was pleased with our effort from start to finish,” Padgett said. “We turned the ball over too much, and we didn't execute our offense anywhere near the way we wanted to.
“But we were able to just keep battling. I credit our kids for hanging in there. It was sloppy play, but they didn't make it easy on us and we didn't make it easy on them.”
Northview took a 2-0 lead before Central scored eight straight points, and the Cats got no closer than four points from there.
Central, up 31-21 at halftime, took its biggest lead of the game when Mix scored on a lob pass from Thomas 12 seconds into the third quarter for a 12-point edge.
“We just played good defense,” Mix said. “Forty-seven points. You're not going to win too many games scoring 47 points. We're clicking right now on the defensive end. Offensively, we had a lot of inside shots. We just need to start finishing better.”
Northview got within 40-34 on a basket by Charles Wynn late in the third quarter, but Central went on a 7-2 run.
After winning its second straight Northern Lakes League title with a junior-dominated 18-4 team last year, the Wildcats figured to be one of the area's top Division I teams this year.
But Central, 7-13 with a young roster last year, didn't see that same Northview group.
Wildcat guard Brock Rieger, who averaged 15.5 points per game as a junior, is no longer on the team.
“Brock made some poor decisions in the off-season and was asked not to rejoin our program this year,” said Northview coach Dennis Shoemaker, who declined to elaborate.
Also, returning senior point guard Kevin Croke is out with an injury for at least another week.
The backcourt ballhandling and scoring void was evident, as Northview had 27 turnovers and went 18-of-53 (34 per cent) from the field.
“It was the first game and we were not smooth at all,” Shoemaker said. “It was an ugly game, basically. Both teams played hard and it was very physical. We had a lot of turnovers because of their defense.
“We told the kids, `Yes, we've had some adversity. But we're going to have to learn to overcome that.' This shows us what we've got to do to get better.”
Steve Horner, Northview's 6-6 All-NLL senior post player, did his best to make up for the losses by scoring a game-high 24 points and grabbing eight of the Cats' 34 rebounds.
Horner and 6-5 senior Ryan Vinciguerra were in early foul trouble and sat out crucial minutes.
Vinciguerra drew his third foul just 2:20 into the second quarter and did not return until after halftime. Horner, who drew his third 2:31 before halftime, fouled out with 4:08 left in the game.