CANTON — Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy freshman Darryn Peterson felt comfortable Wednesday night at the Canton Memorial Field House.
For Peterson, it was a homecoming of sorts as he led CVCA to a 72-57 win over Parma Padua in Division II district semifinal.
Peterson scored 23 points Wednesday in his return to Canton, the city in which he was born and raised. The 6-foot-5, 195-pound guard starred at Hartford Middle School in Canton last year before enrolling at CVCA for his freshman year.
"I played in the Field House a couple of times growing up, but not that much recently," said Peterson, who turned 15 on Jan. 17 and now lives in North Canton.
"I love it in there."
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CVCA senior Seth Bagwell scored 21 points and junior Jackson Shelby had 11 points.
CVCA (16-7) advanced to meet either Tallmadge or Cleveland Glenville in a district final at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Field House. The Blue Devils and Tarblooders are set to play in the other district semifinal on Thursday night in Canton.
"I was really pleased with how we played as a team," CVCA coach Matt Futch said. "Obviously, Darryn Peterson is a special talent.
"He is one of the best players in the state and arguably the best player in the area regardless of class. He has a level of leadership in him that I have not seen before. He can do a lot of things on the court. He rebounds at a high level and he continues to see every type of defense — whether it is man, whether it is zone, whether it is box and one, and he gets his teammates involved. It is a pleasure to see."
Senior Akinlana Popoola scored 21 points to pace Padua (15-10). Bruins junior Jesse Hayes, senior Nick Rini and senior Brenden Rees contributed 12, 10 and nine points, respectively.
Peterson scored eight points apiece in the opening two quarters Wednesday as CVCA built its lead. The Royals led 18-11 at the end of the first quarter and 41-27 at halftime.
"I felt like I was rolling in the first half," Peterson said. "I was hitting shots, getting my teammates involved, rebounding and we defended well. I was clicking early."
CVCA maintained its lead in the second half and was ahead 54-40 through three quarters.
Bagwell, a 6-3 guard, scored 10 points in the first half and 11 points in the second half.
"Seth Bagwell, Brennan Darr and Cody Brantley are seniors that provide leadership and support," Futch said. "Seth Bagwell does a really good job scoring the ball. You can't key on Darryn Peterson when you have got Seth there.
"Brennan Darr does all of the dirty work. He rebounds well, finishes down low, guards the best post player and is able to push the break and handle the ball. Cody Brantley is a very good defender for us. He does a great job defensively and plays his role at a high level. And then we have Jackson Shelby, who really is a darkhorse. If you don't watch out for him, he can hit you for 20 points as well."
Peterson is averaging over 26 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals per game. He is shooting over 50 percent from the field and over 43 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. He helped CVCA clinch the PAC-7 championship, and his list of scholarship offers includes Ohio State, Arizona State, Akron, Pittsburgh, St. John's, Louisiana State, West Viriginia, Cleveland State, Xavier, Indiana and Marquette.
Peterson said his older teammates have helped him adapt to high school basketball.
"Seth and Darr motivate me," Peterson said. "They let me know what I gotta do out there. I do my best to win, whether it is playmaking, rebounding, defending or scoring."
Futch added that freshmen Paul Rusinko, Niles Nuru and Caden Owens and junior Jonathan Fridline are also playing well in reserve roles.
"We are playing some good basketball right now at the right time," Futch said. "We still do some young, inexperienced things, but we play hard defensively. Our guys have bought into that and they are doing a great job defensively."
Michael Beaven can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MBeavenABJ.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Freshman Darryn Peterson leads CVCA to district semifinal win