Canton South started fast and never looked back. Strong defense and a couple 9-0 runs helped the Wildcat boys basketball team make Frank Spotleson's coaching debut a memorable one on Friday night at Canton Central Catholic High School.
The Wildcats rolled to a 55-35 win over Canton Central Catholic and never trailed the entire night giving Spotleson his first win as a head coach.
"It feels good for me, but I feel better for the players," Spotleson said, referring to his seven seniors on the roster, who are playing for their third head coach in three seasons for the Wildcats.
In addition, Spotleson graduated from St. Thomas High School. During his high school days, Central Catholic was a huge rival of St. Thomas so that added a bit more to this contest for the head coach of the Cats.
South senior Armand Fontes led the Wildcats offense with a game-high 18 points. Fontes controlled the game by getting to the hold and setting up teammates with penetration.
Good man-to-man defense has been a stress at practice for the Wildcats and it showed on Friday as they limited the Crusaders to tough shots, even holding them to 22.2 percent shooting in the second half. Turnovers were also key as they led to easy transition points for the red and grey.
"We have played man defense well all preseason and that is going to be a focus of ours all season," said Spotelson on his defensive game plan.
The Wildcats took a 29-18 lead into the halftime break before coming out in the second half and putting the game away. Kyle Deckard nailed a three pointer on South's first possession of the third quarter and the Wildcats assed three straight deuces to string together a 9-0 run that opened the game to a 20 point lead at 38-18.
The Cats led by as many as 22. Trey Taylor added 13 points to the South attack, Josh Lyon scored eight, Deckard and teammate Austin Joliff chipped with seven and Gunnar Tharp added two. Canton South dropped 13 of their 18 free throw attempts as a team.
Central Catholic was paced by senior Steve Vanckunas with eight points and sophomore Jimmy Russel added six. The Crusaders netted six of their 11 free throw attempts.
Fontes and Taylor have both been on the varsity squad since they were freshman, both seeking their fourth letters for the Cats. Deckard and Lyon have also been on the squad since they were freshman, both juniors and seeking their third letters. Spotleson has reason to believe this team is going to be a force in the NBC.
"It means a lot for us to get off to a good start, especially for the seniors," Spotleson said. "They have been starving for some success and their hard work finally paid off."
The Wildcats will look to continue their success on Friday night when they play host to NBC rival Marlington at 6 p.m. They will then travel to take on Northwest on Dec. 11 before returning home on Dec. 14 to take on Minerva in a NBC contest.