And one of the best players in Firelands Conference history made host Norwalk pay.
Trailing the Trojans 22-20 at halftime of Saturday’s non-league game at Norwalk High School, longtime head coach Steve Gray tasked his Truckers with attempting to trap standout South Central guard Simon Blair.
But the NCAA Division II Malone University recruit was able to dribble through and pass out of almost any and all double teams. Not only did he score a game-high 23 points on 11-of-17 shooting, but he was also able to connect with teammate David Lamoreaux on two slam dunk ally oops off backdoor passes.
“It’s great, but it’s almost normal now,” South Central senior Isaiah Seidel said of Blair and Lamoreaux’s display. “But it’s a good time when those two get going like that.”
When it was all settled, the state-ranked Trojans (14-2) had turned a 34-29 lead into a 19-point lead with just over two minutes left in a 62-45 victory.
South Central — ranked No. 15 in last week’s Division IV Associated Press poll — finished the game 27-of-51 shooting while outscoring Norwalk (8-6) by a 40-25 margin in the second half.
“South Central had the best player on the floor tonight, and he lived up to his billing,” Gray said of Blair, who also added five assists and four rebounds. “The thing that is most impressive about him is his ability to make everyone around him better. I think Malone is getting a great player, and he’s going to have a great career there.”
Gray took full ownership of the decision to trap Blair after the game.
“We wanted it out of Blair’s hands and he was better off our double teams — we should have sat down and defended,” he said. “That’s my fault. If we would have had them just sit down, defend and everything else, I don’t think it would have gotten away from us like it did. Blame that one on me.”
The Trojans scored the first two baskets of the game, only to see the Truckers go on a 9-2 scoring run after back-to-back baskets from Garrett Obringer. But South Central was able to take a 10-9 lead, with one of the highlights being a breakaway slam dunk by Lamoreaux off a Norwalk turnover.
The dunk was part of a 12-0 scoring run for the Trojans, who had taken an 18-9 lead with 5:50 left in the first half. The Truckers responded with an 8-0 run of their own, however, as a 21-11 deficit was trimmed to 21-19 with 2:23 left in the half after back-to-back baskets from Will Gehlhausen and two free throws by Garrett Chapin.
“We got a little stagnant, they went zone and we settled with some one-and-done attempts for most of the first half,” South Central coach Brett Seidel said. “I thought second half we really moved the ball well. They went to some trapping and doubling of Simon to get it out of his hands, and it’s difficult. He’s just really special.
“Simon was able to get around the double teams, and when that happens, the rim is open,” he added. “He was able to do that for us in the second half.”
Isaiah Seidel drained a 3-pointer to begin the third quarter, and just like that, the Trojans’ lead never was less than two possessions the rest of the game.
Leading 34-29, South Central closed the third quarter by scoring six of the last eight points, all from Blair and Lamoreaux, to open up a 40-31 advantage.
Blair scored to begin the fourth, then found teammate Jackson McCormack for a 3-pointer to open up a 45-31 lead with 7:04 left. Norwalk was never able to get it down to single-digits the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, Lamoreaux punctuated his 16-point night on 7-of-10 shooting with the two late catch and dunk passes from Blair with 3:54 and 2:10 left in the game — the last which made it a 59-40 lead.
“This is a big win because of the Norwalk program,” Brett Seidel said. “Because of Steve Gray. Because of Tom Foster. A state championship coaching staff, and those two have been doing it forever it seems. All the respect in the world for them and their program.
“So for us to come here and win … we need to build on it. I feel like we beat a really good team tonight on the road.”
Isaiah Seidel finished with 10 points for the Trojans, who also got six points and seven rebounds from McCormack, and seven points from Blaine Wheeler.
Meanwhile, Norwalk struggled to just 15-of-49 shooting (30 percent) as Chapin finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds. Gehlhausen added eight points, three rebounds and three steals, while Obringer scored seven points.
Norwalk is at Ontario (11-4) on Tuesday in another non-league game. The Truckers also visit Vermilion (0-15) on Thursday and Port Clinton (3-13) on Saturday.
“Ontario is a really good team that is a tough matchup for us with three really good guards,” Gray said. “We’re just going to have to defend a little bit better. But when you’re not making shots, things just sort of weighs on you more.
“We didn’t have great shot selection (Saturday), especially in the first half,” he added. “And we didn’t shoot the ball real well in general.”
In the junior varsity game, Norwalk claimed a 42-24 victory to improve to 8-6. The JV Truckers were led by Daniel Traczek with 12 points and six rebounds, while Drew Shope added seven points and five rebounds.
SOUTH CENTRAL (14-2)
Simon Blair 11-0—23; Sam Seidel 1-0—3; David Lamoreaux 7-2—16; Isaiah Seidel 4-1—10; Blaine Wheeler 2-1—7; Jackson McCormack 2-0—6. TOTALS 27-4—62.
Garrett Chapin 5-8—18; Will Gehlhausen 3-0—8; Garrett Obringer 3-0—7; Kyler Lacy 2-1—5; Ian Minor 1-1—3; Ryan Sowders 1-0—2; Jad Oglesby 0-2—2. TOTALS 15-12—45.
S. Central 10 12 18 22 — 62
Norwalk 9 11 11 14 — 45
3-point FGs: (SC) (N) Gehlhausen 2, Obringer.
JV: Norwalk, 42-24