AMITY — Zach Bernards couldn’t find a towel so he improvised.
His Dayton High School boys basketball team – the same one that has dominated Class 3A play this entire season – was leading rival Amity on the road Monday, and Bernards couldn’t wait for that to continue.
So when a couple sweaty players came collapsing to the floor in the first quarter under Dayton’s basket and left a puddle of water on the floor, he was going to try to clean it up any way he could.
Last year’s Class 3A state player of the year sat down on the court under the basket, scooted his butt along the floor like a dog scooting across a carpet in an attempt to dry it.
The only problem was Bernard’s Dri-Fit uniform shorts that he wore absorbed none of it.
“That’s him in a nutshell,” Dayton coach Ron Hop said.
It took Bernards pulling the move three times in the game until someone finally found a towel to throw to him so he could clean up the sweat.
“If there’s water on the court for five minutes, I want to get playing,” said the 5-foot-11 senior point guard. “If no one is getting a towel, I want to get playing.”
It was only the beginning of the show the packed gym at Amity witnessed Monday night.
Bernards dropped 38 points – including eight 3-pointers – on Amity, and the No. 1-ranked Pirates (3-0 West Valley, 13-0 overall) remained the only unbeaten team at the Class 3A level with a 92-67 win.
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As Dayton chases yet another state championship, someone is going to have to figure out a way to stop Bernards if they’re going to knock off the Pirates.
“I think this is one of the best teams I’ve played on, and I think we knew we were capable after we lost last year,” Bernards said. “We were crushed, and I think that kind of correlates with effort in the next season. I think we’re championship capable.”
It’s true that a Dayton team that placed third in the state last year feeds off its best player.
When many of its players got in foul trouble in the second half, Bernards kept the Pirates going.
The rest of the team cooled off from the 3-point range in the second half, but Bernards hit four 3-pointers in the half and was 8 of 12 shooting from beyond the arc.
“He’s just a great player and he trusts everybody and keeps the game going,” said junior Bailey West, who scored 12 points. “He picks everybody up when they’re down. Even if they miss a shot he says keep shooting.”
Of the 38 points Bernards scored Monday, 27 came in the second half.
It’s not unusual for Bernards to come on strong late in games, or put up big numbers, but even this was more remarkable because it came in Dayton’s most important game this season, the rivalry game against Amity.
“A couple of times there was hands in his face, he just knocked them down,” Amity coach Scott Nelson said. “He’s a great shooter. Although I will say it’s easier to hit 3’s when you’re up by 20. There’s no pressure.
“He deserves the accolades and all the attention he gets. He’s confident and cocky, but you know, he can back it up.”
The weird thing was that Bernards was far from 100 percent physically Monday.
He was noticeably limping in the second half.
Even as he drained 3-pointer after 3-pointer in rhythm and cut to the basket with ease, he still limped back down the court on defense, but getting him to come out of the game, even with the Pirates holding a huge cushion, was difficult.
“He told me on the way out how many points he had and if he needed one more jumper to get 40,” Hop said. “I go, you’ve already scored 40, who cares?
“It’s a long season. He’s a little banged up and we got to get him a little more healthy.”
Dayton improves to 3-0 in the West Valley and 13-0 overall while dropping Amity to 2-1 in the West Valley and 9-3 overall. Dayton takes over sole possession of first place in the league.
The Pirates are unquestionably the top team in Class 3A right now, but the team has a long way to go in the season.
“I think we’re looking down, but we also want to make sure we take it one game at a time and don’t mess up,” said junior Bailey West, who scored 12 points.
Contact Bill Poehler at bpoehler@StatesmanJournal.com, and follow him on Twitter @bpoehler
Dayton 92, Amity 67
Dayton: Zach Bernards 38, Nowlin 15, Lewis 14, West 12, Flowers 8, deSmet 4, Capener 1, Fergus, Rosas, Brodeur, Findley. Totals 31 16-19 92.
Amity: Devin McShane 16, Nelson 13, Stearns 12, Wilson 10, Stearns 6, Yeager 4, HArch 2, White 2, Mather 2, Barber, Berrier. Totals 23 17-22 67.
DAY 22 19 18 23-92
AMI 18 17 15 17-67
3-point goals: Dayton 14 (Bernards 8, Lewis 3, Nowlen 2, West); Amity 6 (McShane 3, Stearns, Nelson, Wilson).