Dylan Patton (top) of Leslie swats away a shot by Hunter Puhr of Stockbridge during their game Tuesday February 17, 2015 in Leslie. Leslie would cruise to a 45-35 win.
Leslie big man Dylan Patton makes it a point to set the tone for himself and his team in the first quarter of every ball game.
And in Tuesday’s GLAC matchup between the Blackhawks and Stockbridge, the 6-foot-7 junior did just that as his game-high 15 points, 17 rebounds and five blocks helped propel Leslie past the Panthers, 45-35.
Patton scored six points in the opening quarter and added three blocks. The Blackhawks (13-2, 7-2) outscored Stockbridge, 15-6, in the first eight minutes.
“I feel like I’m more stagnant throughout the game if I don’t go at them early,” said Patton, who has been pivotal during his team’s 10-game winning streak. “We really try to focus on coming out and doing the best we can. The better we do (early), the more down they get.”
The Panthers, however, countered Leslie’s first-quarter blows by starting the second quarter on a 6-2 run — all scored by sophomore Mason Gee-Montgomery, who had a team-high 12 points — and cut their deficit to five.
The Blackhawks, led by five points from junior Zac Latter, retaliated with a 9-4 run to end the half. Defensively, Patton’s length caused trouble for Stockbridge (7-9, 3-6) around the rim during that span.
“The first game he killed us offensively, and I think this game he dominated us defensively with his shot blocking and presence in the paint,” said Panthers coach Randy Swoverland, who only has two seniors on his roster. “We’ve struggled to score all year long. …It’s hard for our team, right now, to make major adjustments during a game because they just haven’t played that much basketball.
“We have to go with what we’ve done and, if it’s not working, stick with it and get better at it. Tonight it didn’t happen.”
By the end of the third quarter, Leslie extended its lead to 14. However, in the fourth, it was Stockbridge that took charge. The Panthers held the Blackhawks to only three fourth-quarter field goals as they outscored them, 11-7, in the final eight minutes.
“We got to fight like that in the first quarter,” Swoverland said. “If you fight like that in the first quarter then you’re not down by 10. I thought we missed some layups in the first half and the game should have been closer than 10 points at half, but they clearly played better than us and deserved to win.”
The Blackhawks are now 11-1 since the start of the New Year and are tied with Lakewood for the top spot in the conference.
“We’ve started to have some other kids step up,” Leslie coach Matt Johns said. “Camden Austin had a huge first half tonight. …Trey Waldofsky came in and ran the point when Jordan (Pearsall) got in foul trouble. …We’ve become a lot better when we have other people come in and contribute.
“If you look at tonight, they were concentrating on Dylan, doubling down, we had to have other kids contribute, and I thought we did that.”
Austin scored 12 points for the Blackhawks and Latter added nine. Hunter Puhr scored seven points for Stockbridge.