A strong post presence -- courtesy of Michael Laster and Avery Strayhorn -- helped Paducah Tilghman move to 2-0 on Friday night, with a solid 69-46 win over Carlisle County in Otis Dinning Gymnasium.
Laster scored a game-high 23 points -- including all four of the Blue Tornado's buckets in a sticky second quarter -- while Strayhorn added 19, perhaps none more emphatic than his two first-quarter steal-and-slams to help head coach Rod Thomas' club build an early 9-3 advantage.
"We have an interior presence with Avery and Mike that we think can swing things our way down low," Thomas added. "And it just kind of worked out that way for us as well. We threw it down low to the rim, and they make plays for us from there.
"But that's a luxury we have this year, and last year we didn't really have that inside presence that we want. And Avery stepped up big not only on offense, but he changed a lot of shots defensively. And when he's doing that, he just makes us that much better."
The Comets will certainly lament missed free throws (14), poor shooting inside the arc (11-for-40) and a number of turnovers -- 20 overall and 14 by halftime.
But much of that frustration must be pushed to Strayhorn and Laster, who always seemed to be open in transition either off of a steal or a defensive rebound.
"That's what we want these guys to buy into," Thomas said. "Offense goes and comes. The shot goes and comes. But defense, that's effort. And I feel like this team can be elite defensively."
Carlisle County, meanwhile, did have balanced scoring -- with five players notching at least eight points.
A late 8-0 run by the Comets cut the deficit to 54-40 before Tyus White's only basket -- a triple off the left elbow -- all but finished the valiant push.
Carlisle County 13 8 7 18 -- 46
Paducah Tilghman 23 8 19 19 -- 69
Comets -- Blake Elder 10, Trey Wilson 9, Reese Anderson 9, Daven McGee 8, Trace Hook 8, Tyler Copeland 2.
FG: 13-46. 3PT: 2-6 (Elder, McGee). FT: 18-32. TO: 20. PF: 16. Record: 1-1.
Tornado -- Michael Laster 23, Avery Strayhorn 19, Rodriguez Thomas 9, Eli Brown 5, Amirion Joyce 4, Tyus White 3, Tay Shawn Carruthers 2, Cedric Davis 2, Amarian Patterson 2.
FG: 26-48. 3PT: 3-15 (Thomas, Brown, White). FT: 13-17. PF: 22. TO: 18. Record: 2-0.
Thomas, Gray shine as Tilghman tops Carlisle
A 29-point fourth quarter -- and an incredulous 29 points and 14 rebounds from eighth grader Destiny Thomas -- helped propel the Lady Blue Tornado to a 64-49 victory over visiting Carlisle County on Friday night.
Paducah Tilghman -- now 2-0 to start the season -- trailed the Lady Comets 37-31 late in the third quarter after a Landry Crider basket before exploding for 33 points in the contest's final 12 minutes.
Most of that came off of rebounds and transition, with Thomas and Diamond Gray -- who added 14 points -- making the most of the open lane.
"I think it (all) changed in the third quarter, and then took effect in the fourth quarter," noted Tilghman head coach Stephen Dreher. "I think we were a little more intelligent with our pressure, and then we made (Carlisle) play more defense, rather than running down and (shooting).
"We're so young, and when I talk about 'tempo, tempo, tempo,' they here 'shot, shot shot.' So I have to realize that, and with me being a little slow, it took me a half to figure it out."
The Lady Comets got a strong night from senior Mollie Henderson (14 points, 12 rebounds) and Maddie Wright (seven points), but couldn't shake a precipitously cold final quarter -- in which the team only made three baskets.
Carlisle County 13 12 12 12 -- 49
Paducah Tilghman 16 7 12 29 -- 64
Lady Comets -- Landry Crider 17, Mollie Henderson 14, Maddie Wright 7, Lakin Garrett 4, Alexis Hall 3, Taylar Owens 2, Tristan Tyler 2.
FG: 16. 3PT: 2 (Crider, Henderson). FT: 15-24. PF: 19. Record 1-1.
Lady Tornado -- Destiny Thomas 29, Diamond Gray 14, Dasia Garland 11, Jaaliyah Biggers 3, Tyonia Talley 1.
FG: 20. 3PT: 4 (Thomas 3, Gray). FT: 14-24. PF: 24. Record: 2-0.