Waite's perfect ride through the City League boys basketball schedule ran into a perfect storm Friday night at Central Catholic.
The home Irish, fighting for a spot in the upcoming CL playoffs, went full-force at the Indians with a balanced mix of efficient ball movement, hot shooting, and strong defense.
When the debris was cleared, first-place Waite (13-2, 9-1 CL) had absorbed a humbling 69-46 defeat before a crowd of more than 2,000 at the Sullivan Center, and Central was a step closer to a playoff berth.
The Irish (11-6, 7-3) need a win here Friday night against Clay to earn a spot, and a probable rematch with these same Indians in the Feb. 24 semifinals at Savage Arena.
Sophomore guard Drew Lehman led four double-figure scorers for the Irish with 16 points, and seniors Bruce Huntley, Doug Williams, and Blair Hueston added 15, 14, and 12, respectively.
For Central - which also handed eventual 2008 City champion Libbey its only CL loss last year on this court - the first step was a fast start.
Waite s David Butte goes flying through the air trying to stop Central s Drew Lehman (10) last night at the Sullivan Center.
The Irish got that thanks to 70-percent (14-of-20) shooting from the field in the first half, which closed with Central on top 35-18.
"The reason for the high percentage is that our guys share the ball," said first-year Irish coach Jim Welling, the former highly successful coach at Owens Community College. "That's what we preach on a day-to-day basis, and it's just amazing because they are finally starting to see what the rewards are for playing team basketball. They've done a wonderful job with it."
If they were going to stay perfect in league play, the Indians needed to dent that deficit early after the break. But that did not happen, as Huntley scored six straight points to open the third quarter and put Central up 41-18 with 5:22 left in the period.
Waite senior guard-forward Darius Glover and sophomore forward Dishon Harris briefly interrupted Central's momentum with successive 3-pointers, but Corey Layson answered with a 3-pointer for Central, and it was soon clear that the Indians' chances of a comeback were minimal.
"We needed to get off to a big start against Waite because they're a good team," Huntley said. "We're a tough team to play [against] in the Sullivan Center. We play our best games here.
"When we play defense like that, we can beat anybody. We had to play team defense. Darius Glover is one of the best players in the City, and we did a good job on him."
Ahead 46-30 after three quarters, the Irish closed with another flourish, netting 10 of their final 13 shots to finish the rout.
Waite s Darius Glover drives with determination past Irish defender Steve Becker.
"We didn't do anything well," Waite coach Dave Pitsenbarger said. "We didn't check out and we didn't execute our offense, which we've been worried about the last few games.
"And, Central wanted it. They came out and took us out of our game. They played really hard. I think we played hard for one quarter, and they just came after us. We knew if we didn't come ready to play that it could be a night like this."
With sophomore guard Ke-Sean Harris (15.7 point scoring average) apparently still adjusting to his protective facial mask, Glover was Waite's only consistent offensive threat. Glover had game highs with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Harris, whose nose was broken in Waite's win over Libbey on Tuesday, had just five points. Antonio Allen added nine points and five rebounds.
Central finished 29-of-49 (59 percent) from the field, including 4-of-6 on 3-pointers. The Irish were 7-of-18 from the line and committed nine turnovers. Waite was 15-of-48 (31 percent) from the field, 14-of-20 from the line, outrebounded the Irish 32-27 and committed 14 turnovers.
"I was happier with our defensive intensity than I was our offense," Welling said. "But our guys are battlers. It just takes time to get that chemistry, and now we think we have it."
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