Sluggish PCA routs Park Place

Published 12:39 am Saturday, February 11, 2012

It took Porters Chapel a half to get rolling Friday night. Once they did, Park Place stood about as much chance of stopping the Eagles as a penny has of derailing a speeding freight train.

PCA took a three-point lead into halftime, then outscored Park Place by 31 points in the second half and romped to a 62-28 victory in the District 5-A Tournament semifinals at Rebul Academy.

Alton Burden scored 18 points and Kawayne Gaston had 16 points and nine assists to lead PCA (19-4), which will face Newton Academy in the championship game today at 5:45 p.m.

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Phillip Keck had 16 points for Park Place, which will play Russell Christian in the third-place game at 4:15 p.m.

All four semifinalists have advanced to next week’s MAIS Class A South Central State tournament, which will also be held at Rebul Academy.

It’s the second straight season PCA has reached the district tournament championship game. Unlike last year, when it came from the bottom half of the bracket and had to win three games in four days, it’s now the favorites. PCA had a first-round bye and Friday was its first game in eight days.

“I don’t think the boys have ever gone in No. 1,” PCA coach E.J. Creel said. “The crowd is excited, we had a lot of fans there tonight. So I’m excited for tomorrow.”

The long layoff might have led to some rust for PCA. It blasted Park Place twice in the regular season, winning 70-43 at home in December and 55-35 in Pearl in January.

This time, the Eagles were hit with injuries and early foul trouble in addition to whatever rust accumulated in the past week. Ted Brisco and Talbot Buys each picked up two quick fouls, and point guard Peter Harris was limited in his playing time because of a back injury.

The three factors combined to slow down PCA, and it only led 22-19 at halftime.

“It’s like they all had a delayed reaction,” Creel said. “We just weren’t mentally focused. We were as unfocused as I’ve seen in a long time. Then something just clicked.”

Did it ever.

A defensive adjustment led to several steals and easy baskets for the Eagles, and they were soon rolling. They outscored Park Place 23-7 in the third quarter to take command of the game and then held the Crusaders to two points in the fourth quarter.

“It was just the eight- or nine-day break. It took us forever to get going,” Creel said. “We went to a half-court trap and started getting steals and scoring off of that.”

Talbot Buys finished with 10 points and seven rebounds for Porters Chapel, while James Melear scored eight points for Park Place.