Park Tudor's top-ranked Class 2A boys basketball game was primed for a letdown Tuesday at home against 2A No. 5 Speedway. Not only had the host Panthers topped the Sparkplugs by 18 points less than a week ago, but Park Tudor also was coming off its first Marion County championship.
And for a little over a half, they were at less than their best. Then the Panthers took it up a notch and rolled to an 81-51 victory.
Paced by 12 points in the third quarter from guard Austin Shelton and seven more from center Dwayne Gibson, the Panthers (13-1) outscored Speedway 27-14 in the third quarter, turning a 31-23 lead into a 58-37 advantage.
"It was one of those games that, as a head coach, it scares you to death," Panthers coach Ed Schilling said. "We have a lot of respect for Speedway. But our kids are such leaders, and they don't let us play any other way than the way we play. They played hard, and they took it up another level -- especially in the second half."
Shelton finished with 21 points, one of three Panthers to reach that total. Bluiett -- averaging nearly 30 points a game -- finished with 21 and 13 rebounds, while Gibson added 21 points, seven rebounds, two steals and a block. Panthers forward C.J. Harrington didn't score, but he grabbed eight rebounds and passed out six assists.
"We have a lot of unknown talent because guys either played JV or at other schools last year," Gibson said. "But any of us can put up 20 on someone. I think we play our best when we're balanced like that."
Behind seven points from Gibson, the Panthers led 19-11 at the end of the first quarter. A basket from Bluiett and a 3-pointer from Alex Mack quickly pushed the lead to 24-11 55 seconds into the second quarter.
But the Panthers wouldn't score again for nearly 3 minutes, and the Sparkplugs -- behind four points from guard Jordan Furlow -- crept within 24-17 with 4:35 left in the half.
Bluiett scored again, and Austin Shelton followed with a 3 to push Park Tudor's lead back to 12, and another basket from Shelton gave his team a 31-19 lead with just over a minute to go.
But Anthony Jones scored, and then came up with a steal at midcourt that led to a layup, bringing Speedway within 31-23 at the break.
The lead was 39-30 midway through the third before Shelton scored eight points -- six on 3-pointers -- during an 11-0 run that gave the Panthers a 20-point lead. Speedway (10-2) never got closer than 18 the rest of the way.