Veteran West M boys start fast, storm past Cambridge

FALLS TOWNSHIP — Two teams on opposite ends of the spectrum met in their season openers on Tuesday night at Gary Ankrum Gymnasium, one a seasoned squad and the other trying to acclimate several new faces.

As expected, the veterans won out handily.

Senior guard Jack Porter scored 11 of his game-high 22 points in the first quarter and veteran West Muskingum used a fast start to pull away early for a 57-37 win in a nonleague game against Cambridge at Gary Ankrum Gymnasium.

Five players scored in the first quarter for West, which opened up an improved transition game that raced out to a 20-7 lead that never dipped into single digits the rest of the way.

Porter led the way, using a combination of knifing drives and short jumpers from the backcourt en route to four made baskets in the first quarter. He added four more in the second half, two of which came directly off of steals.

Senior guard Jack Porter looks for driving room during the second half of West Muskingum's 57-37 win against visiting Cambridge on Tuesday night at Gary Ankrum Gymnasium in Falls Township. Porter scored a game-high 22 points.
Senior guard Jack Porter looks for driving room during the second half of West Muskingum's 57-37 win against visiting Cambridge on Tuesday night at Gary Ankrum Gymnasium in Falls Township. Porter scored a game-high 22 points.

Senior post man Noah Ray (12 points) and senior sniper Jacob Allen (10) also reached double figures for the Tornadoes, who were 12-of-18 from the field in the second half. Allen had both of the team's 3-pointers, while they also hit 11 of 13 free throws.

They have road games with Philo and Licking Valley on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

"We played well for it being the first game," Porter said. "It's a new team with Luke (Pattison) and Jerimiah (Miller) leaving last year, and we didn't know how it would start, but we came out hot. Hopefully we will continue to grow.

"We worked hard on the game plan and what we thought they would come in and do, so we worked a lot on zone offense," Porter added. "We feel we can beat anybody in man, so if they want to run zone we have all of the tools in the bag for that."

Porter returns as one of the top lead guards in the area, one who shined as a ball-handler and shooter as a junior, especially during the team's three-game tournament venture. He said that a full season in the weight room has paid off, particularly with his explosion and improved strength around the basket.

He's not alone. The 6-1 Ray was a widebody in the post the past two seasons, but has lost upwards of 40 pounds thanks to a strict weight room regimen, leaving him quicker and more agile than past seasons.

Noah Ray scores inside during West Muskingum's 57-37 win against visiting Cambridge in a nonleague game on Tuesday night in Falls Township.
Noah Ray scores inside during West Muskingum's 57-37 win against visiting Cambridge in a nonleague game on Tuesday night in Falls Township.

That showed against the Bobcats, as he ran the floor with the guards during transition chances.

"I can definitely tell the difference," Porter said. "I'm a lot more explosive."

Porter looked even more polished against the youthful Bobcats, who return only three lettermen in guards Caden Moore and Regan Rogers and 6-3 lefty post man Davion Bahr.

After failing to stop the Tornadoes' fast pace with their man-to-man in the first quarter, Cambridge played a mix of zones the rest of the way. Bahr was the only Bobcat in double figures with 13 points, nine of which came before halftime. Only two other players scored in the first half.

"I don't know right now if we are built to climb back out of holes that early," Cambridge coach Kyle Pertuset said. "We don't have a whole lot of guys who have a ton of varsity experience, so we're going to have to some peaks and valleys this year.

"All we can do is get back in the gym tomorrow and try to figure it out together, and collectively go home and look at the tape, jot down the good and the bad and see where we're at," Pertuset added.

Cambridge coach Kyle Pertuset surveys the action during his team's 57-37 loss to host West Muskingum on Tuesday night in Falls Township.
Cambridge coach Kyle Pertuset surveys the action during his team's 57-37 loss to host West Muskingum on Tuesday night in Falls Township.

West M coach Jeff Rinkes has stressed that his team focus on small details, such as blocking out and minimizing turnovers, during the season's early stages. With four starters back from last year's sectional champion squad, handling lofty expectations will be one of many new challenges his team figures to face.

He said they spoke about the team's goals prior to the season, but that it won't be mentioned again during the season. He left Tuesday's affair feeling his team needs to make ample strides if it expects to compete in the hair-raising Muskingum Valley League.

"We know every night that we're going to get everybody's best game, so that pressure of not having that letdown — a big, long letdown — I know they're dealing with it, " said Rinkes, in his 35th year of coaching. "We're trying to mentally deal with it. There's going to be 22 straight games where we get everybody's best shot. I don't care who we play. We're going to get their best shot."

Pertuset, a Kentucky native, is confident his group will resemble a much more polished group in the second half of the season. Some players have been forced to acclimate quickly due to late starts to the season after the football team reached the playoffs.

One is three-year letterman Caden Moore, the team's quarterback. Tuesday's matchup was a difficult one against one of the East District's top returning rosters.

"I'm not going to make any excuses," Pertuset said. "We've got to get in the gym and we've got to get better. We all have to do a better job."

West M took the reserve game, 51-34, as Cade Porter tallied a game-high 17 points and Taven Bennett chipped in 10. Mason Gress' 13 counters paced Cambridge; Garrett Carpenter added 11.

sblackbu@gannett.com; Twitter: @SamBlackburnTR

This article originally appeared on Zanesville Times Recorder: Veteran West M boys basketball starts fast, storms past Cambridge