BY PEDRO VELAZCO
---- — Kokomo’s boys basketball team took control almost instantly Saturday night. The Wildkats grabbed the opening tip against Peru and established a theme with their first bucket — a driving score by point guard Mykal Cox.
Peru tied the game on a dunk by 6-foot-11 junior center Seth Adelsperger, but Kokomo responded with a triple by Brad Dockemeyer off a feed from Cox and the Kats never looked back.
Kokomo went on a 9-0 run and was never challenged, posting a 73-39 victory over the Bengal Tigers (4-4) in Memorial Gym.
Kokomo (4-5) was disruptive on defense at the guard spots and inside in forcing 19 Bengal turnovers. On offense, the aggressive play by Kokomo’s guards set the tone for an efficient night.
“Our pressure really caused them a lot of problems,” Kokomo coach Brian McCauley said. “Our guys really did a good job with making rotations, getting solid traps, getting deflections, that leads to a steal, that leads to an easy basket. We scored 25 points off their 19 turnovers and that’s the story of the game.”
McCauley noted that even when not getting a turnover, Kokomo’s defense was able to speed up Peru and force shots that the Bengals didn’t intend to take when they drew up a game plan.
That was a source of frustration for Peru coach Jim Metcalfe.
“Disappointed doesn’t begin to describe how I feel right now,” he said. “Our guys really thought we’d come over and play much better. When your perimeter turns it over 15 times ... 15 of your 19 turnovers coming from guys who have the ball in their hands the majority of the time, it doesn’t give you a chance to win this game.”
Kokomo’s perimeter players Cox, Jordan Matthews and Jeron Gray dominated. Twice in the first quarter Cox and Erik Bowen connected on nice lob plays where Cox drove in deep, drew defenders in the air and lobbed passes to Bowen who caught and scored all in one motion.
“Our guys did a great job of attacking the rim,” McCauley said. “I thought we set some solid ball screens that got us into the paint. Mykal did a great job of penetrating and finding Erik. Those are just two guys who have played together a lot through the years, they’re on the same page. Two great basketball players making great plays — it’s fun to watch.”
Kokomo opened up a 19-8 lead through one quarter and was completely in control at halftime after the Kats caused a turnover on a Peru inbounds play with 4 seconds left and got an instant short jumper from Jazimar Woodard at the buzzer to go into the break up 41-16.
Cox finished with 15 points and five assists to lead the Kats. Bowen had 14 points. Brad Dockemeyer, Jordan Matthews and Demarius Warren each had 10 points, and Jeron Grey eight.
“Kokomo has really quick, good guards, but we couldn’t contain them, we couldn’t keep them in front of us,” Metcalfe said.
Adelsperger scored a game-high 18 points on an efficient 7 of 8 shooting and 4 of 5 from the free-throw line, but Metcalfe said the Bengal Tigers didn’t exploit that enough to keep pace with the rampant Kats. He stressed that Peru needs to get far more touches for the junior post player in order to be efficient on offense. Forward Michael Richardson added nine points.
Kokomo outrebounded Peru 29-14 with Dockemeyer matching Adelsperger’s eight rebounds to share game-high honors. Bowen grabbed seven and Warren five.
“I thought we got better [Saturday] night,” McCauley said. “You can have games like this where you dominate and you really didn’t get better, but I thought we improved in some areas. Offensive execution was solid. I thought the guys gained confidence.”
FINAL Peru 39 Kokomo 73 Next: Peru hosts Oak Hill on Friday; Kokomo plays at McCutcheon on Saturday.