Sometimes you go down 23 points in the first half and never recover. You accept that your shots just won’t fall and brace yourself for the moment in the handshake line when you’re telling your opponent “Good game” through a frown.
Wednesday night was not such a night for Lafayette.
Down 22-3 after a nightmarish first quarter and 27-4 early in the second period, the Generals used a 30-point fourth quarter to send the game to overtime, where it defeated Perry County Central, 72-68, in the quarterfinals of the Traditional Bank Holiday Classic.
Jajuante Carpenter led Lafayette with 30 points, and gave the Generals their first lead of the night, 62-61 after connecting on a pair of free throws in overtime. Perry County Central briefly regained a 65-62 lead before Eric Powell — who tied the game at 60 on a three-pointer with under a minute to play in regulation — hit another from the right corner to knot things at 65. A triple from Evan Dreux on the Generals’ next offensive possession gave them the lead for good.
Powell finished with 20 points, going 5-for-6 from long range, and eight rebounds. Senior guard Chris Wharton had eight points and eight assists for the Generals.
Wharton said Lafayette’s crushing victory over Manual on Monday gave them a false sense of security.
“We came out here and got busted in the mouth,” Wharton said. “We came back in the huddle and coach told us to keep on fighting. We started fighting and, hey, it went into overtime and we ended up getting the win. ...
“Coach, before every game he says, no matter what, I want people in the stands to come in and be like, ‘Dang, Lafayette works their butt off.’”
Lafayette’s improbable comeback was aided in part by the disqualification of Perry Central star Damon Tobler, who picked up his fifth foul about a minute into the overtime period (which gave way to the Carpenter free throws) after sitting much of the fourth quarter in foul trouble. The senior, whose offers include Samford, Tennessee Tech and Winthrop, is the primary playmaker for the Commodores. He had a game-extending block to prevent a Lafayette win in the final seconds of regulation and finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and nine assists.
“It’s hard to sit and watch my team play without me on the floor,” Tobler said. “... It’ll teach me to learn not to foul.”
Even with Tobler riding the bench, Lafayette still had to deal with Irdris Akenyemi and Prince Anosike, a pair of transfers from June Buchanan who put every bit of their 6-foot-7 frames to work. That caliber of post player isn’t something Lafayette is used to seeing in the 11th Region.
“I think it was the first really all season we’ve gone against a team that’s been that big,” Coach Mike Mendenhall said. “Around the city you have some taller teams but nobody that throws out what they threw out at us. I think our guards especially were a little timid at first, kinda going in the lane worried about getting their shot blocked.”
“I think once they settled down and started to attack the basket, it opened things up for us.”
Mendenhall joked that he was ready to call it quits at halftime after the Generals had shot a better, but still bad, percentage from the free-throw line (28.6) than from the field (21.9) through 16 minutes of play. They trailed 33-17 at the break.
“I was ready to retire and throw it over to my assistants,” Mendenhall said. “But we kept fighting and kept competing and that’s all I ask them to do.”
Wharton laughed at the suggestion that perhaps Lafayette should give up big first-quarter leads to its opponents more often.
“We like to shake it up a little bit, put on a good show,” he said with a grin.
Lafayette gets Cooper, which upended Paul Laurence Dunbar on Wednesday, in the semifinals at 8:30 p.m. Thursday. Perry County Central will play Clark County, which fell to Lexington Catholic in the quarterfinals, in a 5:30 p.m. consolation game Thursday.
Lafayette 72, Perry County Central 68 (OT)
Lafayette (7-5) — Shaw 2, Powell 20, Carpenter 30, Dreux 5, Wharton 8, Newcomb 5, Surratt 2.
Perry County Central (8-4) — Caudill 2, Tobler 13, Cornett 12, Back 23, Hill 9, Anosike 9, Akinyemi 2.