PORT BYRON — As the game wore on, the Panthers played stronger and stronger.
Port Byron boys basketball topped Pulaski 70-45 Wednesday at Dana West High School to nab its second win of the season. The Panthers, who led by one point at halftime, exploded for 21 points in the fourth frame to pick up their first win in league play of the season.
"We came out and controlled really the whole third quarter," Port Byron coach Mike Hermann said. "We set a tone. It was a 22-10 quarter and by the time we got to the fourth we felt we were in the driver's seat. They were very intense, incredibly focused and were really unselfish with the basketball. That's what we're trying to build here."
Brett Saroodis led the Panthers with 16 points and nine rebounds, while Jake Stuart posted a double-double with 13 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. Jay Snyder added 10 points, Scott Compson and Ryan Gilbert (10 assists, four rebounds, six steals) both finished with nine, and Connor Hermann added eight.
Both defenses controlled the game through the opening 16 minutes as each team was forced to do a lot of their damage from the free-throw line. The Panthers picked up the pace in the third quarter, turning turnovers into points, and the Devils couldn't match.
"(Forcing steals) definitely played into our game plan tonight," Hermann said. "We had a good scouting report and I think we put together a good game plan with regards to what we wanted to focus on and the things we wanted to accomplish. Credit to the players for applying it."
Port Byron, which led 27-26 midway through the game, scored 22 points in the third quarter to take a 49-36 lead into the final frame. In the last quarter, the Panthers outscored Pulaski 21-6 during a 4:30 span to blow open the game.
Three players reached double-digits in scoring for the Panthers and three more were right on the cusp. Hermann knows balance throughout his lineup will be crucial to success this season.
"I'd love to get eight guys in the scorebook every game," Hermann said. "It's pretty balanced. That's the way we're going to have to play if we're going to be successful. We're going to have to have all hands on deck with everyone pitching in. We know its not going to happen every night, but our ball movement was good, our player movement was good and we hit the shots we created in the second half because of that."
In the OHSL Patriot National division that features difficult Weedsport and Cato-Meridian teams, opening up the league schedule with a victory over Pulaski is just what the doctor ordered for the Panthers.
"Our division is incredibly tough," Hermann said. "We know how tough Weedsport is. Cato-Meridian is really tough. Us, Pulaski, Manlius Pebble Hill ... it's sort of like murderer's row. We know we're going to have a battle every single night."
Port Byron travels to LaFayette on Friday.