HUBER HEIGHTS — L’Christian “Blue” Smith notched his 1,000th career point early in the fourth quarter Friday night and scored a team leading 14 to help power Wayne to a 74-51 victory over Northmont.
The fourth quarter wasn’t just when Smith achieved a career goal, its’ also when Wayne put the game away.
Early on it looked like the Warriors would run away with the game by opening a 23-5 lead at the end of the first quarter. Northmont fought back by snaring some key rebounds and managed to cut Wayne’s lead in half 30-15 with just over four minutes remaining in the half. The Thunderbolts pulled to within nine on a pair of free throws by Jamaal Linson and pair of baskets by Ryan Foy, but Deshon Parker buried a 3-pointer at the buzzer to put the Warriors up 35-23 at the half.
“The first quarter was bad and a lot of that was they were getting layups at the rim and we were shooting a lot of threes that didn’t fall,” said Northmont Coach Collin Abels. “After the first quarter we kind of challenged the players. I can’t fault what they did the next two and a half quarters. They stuck with it and took it at it offensively, got some fouls and got back in the game and got it down to single digits a couple of times. I felt we rebounded the ball really well during that stretch, but then when we got it down to where we were in striking distance Wayne had three possessions in a row where they got three or four shots to pull away. It was the same kind of thing that got us back in the game that allowed them to create some separation.”
Wayne led by 15 before Danny Lewis buried a trey and Jabari Perkins came up with a steal on the change of possession, raced to the hoop and drew a foul from Parker. Perkins converted both free throws to cut the deficit to 43-33 but Wayne still managed to hold a 13 point advantage entering the fourth quarter.
After Blue notched his 1,000th career point he also scored Wayne’s next basket to put Wayne up by 16 and from there the Warriors pulled away to post a 23 point victory.
Wayne had 10 players score in the victory, six in double figures.
“Sometimes when you play a 22 game schedule you don’t always play your ‘A’ game, but I give a lot of credit to Northmont and the way they executed,” said Wayne Coach Nathan Martindale. “We had a great first quarter. The second quarter wasn’t as good. We preach defense but we gave up 18 points in the second quarter and that is not what we do. We also preach being unselfish and having six guys in double figures is exactly the way I want it. I really don’t want have a guy scoring 30 and everybody else scoring two or three points. I really want to have that team balance. We are making the right pass and passing the ball ahead, and that’s what should happen.”
Wayne’s big inside players took their toll in the fourth quarter and controlled the boards when it counted.
“We talked to our bigs all week about the way we wanted to play their bigs and I actually thought they did a really nice job executing inside,” Martindale added. “I definitely want to shout out to L’Christian Smith, or Blue Smith as everybody knows him, scoring his one thousandth point. He is going to Ohio State to play football as a receiver and he decided to come out and play basketball this year and got his one thousandth point on the court. I told him, I don’t know how many guys have done that in their careers but it is a tribute to him and we appreciate him coming out this year when he didn’t have to.”
Despite the loss against the undefeated Warriors, Coach Abels was pleased with how his players fought back.
“If the guys compete like that we can live with that,” Abels added. “Like I told them, the first quarter was just bad and the next two and a half were really good but I think we ran out of gas a little bit. I felt like we came together a little bit as a basketball team tonight. We have things to work on, but if we can continue to grow that’s what this is about.”
Wayne hosts the only other undefeated team remaining in the conference, Springfield, on Friday, Jan. 12 and on Saturday hosts Akron St. Vincent St. Mary’s. Monday the Warriors will face Upper Arlington at Kettering’s Trent Arena in the annual Flyin’ to the Hoop tournament.
Northmont hosts Beavercreek this Friday and plays at Franklin on Saturday, Jan. 13.
NMT 05 23 41 51 – 51
WAY 23 35 54 74 – 74
Northmont: Dawson Walker 1, Jabari Perkins 5, Cameron Rucker 8, Jamaal Linson 7, Kameron Mathis 4, Ryan Foy 16, Danny Lewis 10. Totals: 16-15-51.
Wayne: Rashad McKee 10, Deshon Parker 12, Antwuan Johnson 2, Darius Quisenberry 11, James Shanklin 2, L’Christian Smith 14, Ronnie Hampton 10, Bobby Cole 2, Matt Palma 10, Tallice Landers 1. Totals: 30-8-74.
3-point field goals: Northmont 4 (Rucker 2, Perkins, Lewis); Wayne 6 (Smith 2, Palma 2, McKee, Parker).
Records: Northmont 3-7 (1-5), Wayne 10-0 (5-0).
JV Score: In overtime Northmont 58 Wayne 56.