South Central jumped all over New London in the first quarter and that proved to be the difference.
The Trojans held New London's top scorer Karson Howell scoreless, and took a 54-40 Firelands Conference win over the Wildcats.
"That is where the game was won," South Central coach Brett Seidel said. "The game was even the rest of the way. In the last six or seven games, we have started slow. We have been really sluggish out of the gate. We want to start fast and get after it early."
Howell was held without a point despite repeated good looks from all over the court. The defense of Simon Blair harassed Howell throughout the night.
"You have to be completely conscious of him at all times," said Seidel of Howell. "When he touches it, we have to make sure that everybody is ready to help. Simon is extremely athletic."
Isaiah Seidel and Blair hit consecutive shots to open the game for South Central (14-3, 10-1) before Ashton Carruthers connected on a pair of free throws. That was New London's only points of the quarter though.
Two more buckets by Seidel, coupled with 3-pointers from Blair and Sam Seidel, extended the lead to 14-2. The Wildcats (8-8, 5-6) called timeout, but it did little to stop the Trojans. A driving layup by Blair gave South Central a 16-2 lead after eight minutes. New London missed all 11 shots it took in the first quarter including eight from 3-point range.
"We did not shoot the ball well," New London coach Tom Howell said. "We did not pass the ball well. We did not guard the ball well. We did not rebound it well in the first half. In the first half, our effort was not there."
After two more misses in the second quarter, the Wildcats finally got a field goal when Ben Crawshaw drilled a 3. The sharpshooter added two more triples, but South Central led, 25-13, at halftime.
"You have to give South Central a lot of credit because they are a good basketball team and I knew it was going to be tough coming in," coach Howell said. "That first half was bad."
The Trojans kicked it up a notch midway through the third quarter. After Jaylin Moffit scored off of an offensive rebound for the Wildcats, South Central ran off the next 10 points for a 39-18 lead. The run was capped by a acrobatic layup from Blair and a score down low by Isaiah Seidel.
New London did not fade, and scored the final seven points of the quarter over the last 2:08 to draw back within 39-25 after three quarters.
"South Central guards very well," coach Howell said. "They are physical. They are strong kids and we struggle with stuff like that."
In the fourth quarter, Jacob Allen's putback sliced the lead down to 12, but Alex Holland hit his only bucket of the night — a 3 from the left side — to push the lead up to 15 points.
Later, trailing 44-28 with 6:37 left, New London put together a 8-0 run, but one of the Wildcats' 14 turnovers led to a score by David Lamoreaux to stop the momentum. That was the last time New London was within 10 points.
"We only gave up 54 points," coach Howell said. "I will take that against a team like that. Our troubles were mainly on the offensive end. Give South Central credit for the defense they play."
Carruthers' 14 points and 13 rebounds led New London while Crawshaw scored 10 points. After 13 3s in a double overtime loss to St. Paul last Friday, the Wildcats connected on just 4 of 24 triples, and three of them came from Crawshaw in the second quarter.
"That is all we talked about — knowing 3-point shooters can get hot at any time," coach Seidel said. "Crawshaw can get hot at anytime. We talked about guarding the line early and not allowing any clean looks or letting them get comfortable."
Blair led all scorers with 18 points, while also grabbing eight rebounds. His biggest contribution perhaps came in the form of his defense on Howell.
"I love Karson. He is a great kid," coach Seidel said. "But I have to tip my hat to Simon. He gets a lot of accolades for the way he is with the basketball. The way he guarded tonight, to hold a player of that caliber scoreless, it was just phenomenal."
Lamoreaux and Isaiah Seidel each added 12 points for South Central, who committed just six turnovers.
"I was hoping we would play the first half like we played the second half," coach Howell said. "It took us a half. I did not know how to fix it. I think when it gets to that point, it has to come from within."
At halftime, there was a stuffed animal toss to support local authorities. There were nearly 200 stuffed animals collected to support six area groups.
The Trojans return to action Friday at Crestview. New London is also back at it on Friday, hosting Mapleton.
NEW LONDON (8-8, 5-6)
Ben Crawshaw 3-1—10, Ashton Carruthers 5-4—14, Jaylin Moffit 2-0—5, Jacob Allen 2-4—8, Jaden Keys 0-1—1, Jared Ross 1-0—2. TOTALS 13-10—40.
SOUTH CENTRAL (14-3, 10-1)
Simon Blair 7-2—18, Alex Holland 1-3—6, David Lamoreaux 6-0—12, Isaiah Seidel 5-1—12, Evan Legg 1-0—2, Sam Seidel 1-1—4. TOTALS 21-7—54.
New London 2 11 12 15 — 40
So. Central 16 9 14 15 — 54
3-point FGs: (NL) Crawshaw 3, Moffit; (SC) Blair 2, Holland, I. Seidel, S. Seidel