Playing on the new floor at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, the home of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Willard quickly reminded fans why its one of the top teams in the area.
The Flashes dominated Perkins in the first half en route to a 61-34 non-league win on Wednesday.
"The kids were super excited," Willard coach Joe Bedingfield said. "They came out ready to play. To open up your season here — as a kid growing up, they watched LeBron win a championship not too long ago. That is the first time anybody has played on that floor and it is kind of cool."
Terry Baldridge led Willard (1-0) with 15 points and 16 rebounds while Micah Dawson scored 10 points. Myles Pinkston and Cooper Parrott each added eight points with Pinkston hauling in 10 rebounds and Parrott nabbing seven rebounds.
"It is a great opportunity," Perkins coach Scott McVeigh said. "Even with the result, it is a fun day for the kids. We had just about every kid in our program here. I don't know how many of them have even been to downtown Cleveland, much less Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse."
The Flashes led 27-4 at one point and later, 40-10 in the second quarter.
"I thought our start was tremendous," Bedingfield said. "We rebounded the ball really well early on. Terry Baldridge did a great job of rebounding the ball."
Trey Paxton hit a 3 and Parrott scored off of an assist from Pinkston to get the scoring started. Sam Siegel tallied a score for the Pirates (0-1), but Baldridge scored off of an offensive rebound and threw down a big one-handed dunk for a 9-2 lead.
"We were excited about playing some basketball," Bedingfield said. "You scrimmage and practice, but we had to flip the script from our last scrimmage last Saturday to today. We were ready to play."
Pinkston scored off of a Perkins turnover and a bucket by Baldridge off an assist by Pinkston made it 14-2. A steal and assist by Parrott to Dawson was coupled by a triple by Jake Cok and a score by Austin Adelman to give Willard a 21-4 lead after eight minutes.
"The one thing we talked that we had to do was rebound and we did not do that," McVeigh said. "Willard is a good offensive rebound team. They are long and lengthy and we did not do a good job keeping them off the glass whatsoever."
Baldridge scored off of an offensive rebound before Dawson's bucket forced another Perkins timeout. Dawson grabbed another offensive rebound and scored for a 27-4 Flashes lead with 5:35 left in the second quarter.
"It was good to see us get off to a good start and play as a team," Bedingfield said. "I thought we shared the ball well. Terry's dunk really got us going."
Perkins had its best offensive stretch when Siegel, Tyler Yingling, and Zach Voight scored consecutive buckets, but the Pirates had no answer for Willard's rebounding authority.
The Flashes ran off 13 straight points for a 40-10 lead. Only a 3-pointer by Siegel at the buzzer stopped the bleeding every so slightly.
"We had to get back in transition defense," McVeigh said. "We did not do that. I think we gave up 10 lay-ups in transition in the first half alone. That is stuff that is under our control."
The teams played evenly for both the third and fourth quarters. The lead blossomed to 29 points once at 44-15.
The Flashes also scored the last eight minutes of the game for an emphatic ending. Willard travels to Upper Sandusky on Friday — a team the Flashes lost to 83-59 to open last season, but bounced back to defeat in resounding fashion for the district title in March.
"It was fun. It went by quick," Bedingfield said. "It was a whirlwind from waiting in the lobby to getting on the court. We knew what we were getting into. Everything about today went really fast."
Siegel paced Perkins with 18 points while Voight had 11 points and seven rebounds.
"We knew this was going to be a tough opener," McVeigh said. "We have two kids with varsity experience and guys that had not played together. We played a team that is experienced and have played together. You know why they are a regional team."
Both teams battled free throw and long distance shooting woes. Both teams were 5 of 16 on free throw attempts while Perkins made 3 of 16 3s. Willard was just 2 of 12 from 3.
"There is nothing you can really do about that," Bedingfield said. "We did not really talk about it. We talked about attacking the hoop and using our size to our advantage."
Trey Paxton 1-0—3, Terry Baldridge 7-1—15, Myles Pinkston 3-2—8, Micah Dawson 5-0—10, Cooper Parrott 4-0—8, Austin Adelman 2-1—5, Jake Cok 2-1—6, Cole Weiss 1-0—2, Casey Sallee 1-0—2. TOTALS 27-5—61.
Sam Siegel 7-2—18, Zach Voight 4-3—11, Tyler Yingling 1-0—2, Dyson Leffler 1-0—3. TOTALS 13-5—37.
Willard 21 19 9 12 — 61
Perkins 4 9 9 12 — 37
3-point FGs: (W) Paxton, Cok; (P) Siegel 2, Leffler