By Matt Popchock
It won't be remembered as the prettiest game Perry has played all season. It will, however, be remembered as a day on which the hosts showed patience and resiliency to beat perhaps the team that matches up with them the best.
The Commodores (7-0, 9-2) methodically overcame an 11-point deficit with a 23-point fourth quarter that saw them rack up 17 free throws in a 74-69 triumph over Allderdice at Perry High School Wednesday afternoon.
Junior guard Justin Dobbs, one of three Allderdice starters to finish in double figures, registered a game-high 24 points, including 15 in the second half, but it wasn't enough to keep Perry, winners of five straight, from taking over first place in the City League, or keep the Dragons (6-1, 8-4) from prolonging their own five-game win streak.
"We've worked hard for this for the longest time," Perry head coach Marco Corona said.
Senior guard Marcus Smith agreed, "It's what we've been working for all year. It gives us motivation...and confidence."
The Class of 2011 carried Perry, which got 22 points from Smith, half of them coming at the charity stripe, as well as 17 from senior guard Christian Perkins, and 11 from senior forward Bruce Grover to extend its overall win streak to five games.
"This and [Tuesday's win over] Carrick were probably the two most intense games we've played all year," Smith said.
Allderdice opened the game on a 14-3 run keyed by Ben Mickens, who constantly found himself in the right place at the right time. The junior forward would eventually score 13 of his 17 points in the first half and grab a game-high 12 rebounds.
But even the top-ranked defense in the City League could only bottle up the League's top-ranked offense for so long. Perry counter-punched with a 10-5 run in the final minutes of the opening frame that started with Perkins hitting the first of his three three-pointers, and they took momentum into the second quarter despite trailing 21-18.
The Commodores continued to pound away at the 'Dice's 1-3-1 zone, but Allderdice regained its comfortable cushion by taking advantage of missed opportunities down low and amassing points off turnovers. Tevin Bell scored six of his eight points off the bench, and the Dragons led by as many as 10. Before the end of the half Smith converted his free throw after an and-one layup to trim Allderdice's lead to 40-34 at the break.
Perry continued chipping away in the third quarter but still trailed 53-51 at the end of the period. Still, its physical play was taking a toll on Allderdice, and foul trouble for the Dragons, coupled with intense defense and opportunistic offense, opened the door for the Commodores in the fourth.
"Sometimes kids always want to push things, but in the end they were able to slow the game down and get their wits about them. Thanks to great leadership from Marcus and a few others, we did what we had to do," Corona said.
Grover tied the game with a pair of free throws in the early moments of the period, then easy buckets by Devin Ghafoor and Smith off Allderdice turnovers came in rapid succession and gave Perry a 57-53 edge, its biggest lead of the day to that point.
"We were trying everything we could [early on]," Corona said of Perry's defense. "Once we figured out who their shooters were, we tried to isolate them."
"Pressure and reach," Smith affirmed. "Just keep moving your feet, and play smart."
Dobbs answered and followed it up with one of his three three-pointers to help Allderdice regain the lead, and the Dragons, up 60-59 with 4:43 left, caught a break when Ghafoor missed both attempts on a two-shot foul.
With Perry in the bonus, Smith made up for it by drawing contact and converting both free throws to give the Commodores a 61-60 edge with 2:06 to go in regulation, then it was their turn to catch a break. Dobbs missed a wide-open three off an inbound pass, leading to a contested layup by Smith on the other end. Officials surprised many by calling an intentional foul, and Smith completed the four-point play to make it 65-60 Perry with 1:25 on the clock.
Dobbs would eventually connect on another three-point attempt shortly after scoring on a driving layup to keep things interesting, but the Commodores made sure to slay the Dragons with more free throws in the game's final minute.
"They just know what to do, and when to turn it up at the right time," Corona said. "They're winners, and they're starting to play like men, which is what our goal was from the beginning of the season."
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