By Kenny Hetzler
Monticello — Western’s boys basketball team began its bid for a third straight sectional championship with a 66-52 victory over Peru on Wednesday night in the first round of the Class 3A Twin Lakes Sectional.
Western (13-8) advances to face West Lafayette (17-5) in the second semifinal game Friday. West Lafayette beat Northwestern 46-27 in Wednesday’s nightcap.
Peru beat Western 57-53 in Mid-Indiana Conference play, but the Panthers controlled the rematch.
Western and Peru (10-11) traded the lead in the first four minutes of Wednesday’s game. Peru held the last of its four leads at 8-6 with 3:35 left in the first quarter on a Seth Adelsperger jumper.
Western’s Evan Warden took over from there, hitting on a three-point play to put Western up 9-8. After a Ronnie Smith basket, Warden hit two 3-pointers, helping Western close the quarter with a 17-10 lead.
“We played well,” Western coach Bart Miller said. “We were disappointed with that loss to them [in MIC play]. We came out ready to go right from the get go, and jumping out to a 17-10 lead at the end of the first quarter really help propel us.”
Peru coach Jim Metcalfe also thought the end of the first quarter was a key stretch of the game.
“Western shot the ball extremely well,” Metcalfe said. “The first time we played them, Western was 7 of 29 from [3-point range], and Warden got going [Wednesday] ending up with 26 points. It was the difference. They shot the ball well, and we had a few careless mistakes here and there. The kids kept fighting and playing hard. We just weren’t good enough. I am proud of the kids and the effort that they put in [the game].”
Western extended its lead in the second quarter, taking a 30-16 advantage into halftime. Western shot 5 for 9 from 3-land in the first half.
“We knew that Peru was going to come out and play zone. It was just a matter of which zone were they going to come out in, rather it was 2-3 or 3-2, or anything like that,” Miller said. “We knew we had to knock down some shots to kind a get them out of that, and stretch that out and open up the inside.”
While Western’s offense was clicking on all cylinders, the Panthers’ defense that also played a key role in the first half as Western held Peru to 7-of-27 shooting (25.9 percent) from the field.
“We thought we can maintain [Logan] Primerano’s penetration there,” Miller said. “So, we came out in the zone for that main purpose right there, knowing that inside they could hurt us if they got in there. Our inside guys did a nice job of preventing that. It was mission accomplished.”
Primerano, who came into the game averaging a team-high 15.2 points per game, was held to 10 points. The sophomore guard had just two points in the first half.
“Logan is going to have to get used to everyone keying on him,” Metcalfe noted. “He is a good player and he is going to get better. He could be a really special one before it’s said and done, but he is going to have to get used to that kind of pressure. When we start in the spring, we will get ready for that. There is a lot of work to be done, but there is also a lot of promise.”
Western maintained a comfortable advantage in the second half.
Warden led Western with 26 points. Front-line players Smith (15 points) and Austin Townsend (14 points and 12 rebounds) also had strong games.
Joe Comerford led Peru with 16 points and 12 rebounds.