Kris Wilkes scores 27 as Panthers top Red Devils​

Kris Wilkes scores 27 as Panthers top Red Devils​

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Kris Wilkes scores 27 as Panthers top Red Devils​

Kris Wilkes (31) puts up a shot in North Central's win over Pike on Friday night.

Kris Wilkes (31) puts up a shot in North Central’s win over Pike on Friday night.

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Beating North Central once in a season is tough enough. But twice?

That was the challenge facing the Pike boys basketball team Friday night. And it proved too tall a task for the Red Devils.

North Central senior forward and UCLA recruit Kris Wilkes scored a game-high 27 points as the Panthers coasted to a 77-63 win in a Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference game.

“They’re hard to beat anytime,” Pike coach Bill Zych said. “If not the best, they have one of the best rosters in the state. We were at the top of our game in the county final, but not so much tonight.”

The Red Devils (15-5, 1-4 MIC), ranked No. 10 in Class 4A, beat North Central 71-64 on Jan. 14 in the finals of the Marion County tournament. But it didn’t appear that Pike was playing the same Panthers’ team it saw a month ago.

North Central was efficient shooting the ball, finishing 26-of-49 from the field. Wilkes led four players in double figures for fifth-ranked North Central (18-3, 4-2 MIC), which also outrebounded Pike, 34-19.

“I’m very pleased with tonight,” North Central coach Doug Mitchell said. “It was a group effort, and the type of effort we’ve been looking for for a while. From top to bottom, it’s what we’ve been looking for.

“We’ve been working hard on rebounding. (Pike) is a very athletic team and hurt us badly in the first game (last month).”

North Central led comfortably for most of the game. Trailing by a point late in the first quarter, the Panthers used a 10-0 run to take a 20-11 lead with 6:56 to play in the first half.

The Panthers led by 10 at halftime and pushed their lead to 45-31 midway through the third quarter on a layup from senior forward Emmanuel Little, who finished with 18 points.

The Red Devils cut the lead to eight, 66-58, with 3:14 to play, but would never draw closer. North Central scored the next four points on a layup and a pair of free throws from Little.

“We didn’t do a bad job at defending the first shot tonight, but not the second,” Zych said. “We had a hard time getting rebounds to get back in the game.”

Pike also struggled from behind the arc, shooting just 9-of-24.

Wilkes was dominate throughout. He finished 10-of-16 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds. Little, meanwhile, was 5-of-11 from the field and added seven rebounds. Senior guard Mateo Rivera added 14 points.

“I told Kris that he needed to share the ball tonight while he gets 25 points,” Mitchell said. “The game of basketball is a team sport. You have to trust in the system and trust your coaches. With as much talent as we have, we’re a tough out.”

Senior guard Justin Williams paced the Red Devils with 25 points, including 6-of-10 from 3-point range. Sophomore Brandon Vernon added 13 points.


NORTH CENTRAL 77, PIKE 63

North Central  16  21  18    22  — 77

Pike                11  16   14   22 — 63

North Central (18-3) — Rivera 4 3-4 14, Lee 1 0-0 2, DJ Johnson 4 0-0 10, Wilkes 10 5-5 27, T. Johnson 2 1-2 5, Pack 0 1-2 1, Little 5 8-10 18. Totals: 26 18-23 77.

Pike (15-5) — Williams 8 3-4 25, Pennington 1 2-2 4, Porch 3 1-2 7, James 2 4-5 8, White 0 1-2 1, Pegues 2 1-2 5, Vernon 5 0-0 13. Totals: 21 12-17 63.

3-Point Goals – North Central 7 (Rivera 3, DJ Johnson 2, Wilkes 2). Pike 9 (Williams 6, Vernon 3).

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