SYRACUSE — They call him “Big Fella” and he came up big on Tuesday night.
West Noble’s David Flores scored 20 points, 11 in the fourth quarter, to lead his team past Lakeland 58-47 in the first round of the Class 3A Wawasee Sectional.
The Chargers (13-10) will play host Wawasee in the second semifinal on Friday night.
After a first half of eight points, Flores made himself more open in the second half by finding the space in the paint, which made it easier to pass to him for guys like Trevor Franklin, who assisted on back-to-back baskets by Flores early in the fourth quarter.
“He’s such a good kid, and we call him ‘Big Fella’ because he just can really elevate. He’s a game changer for us for down low. He does a really good job,” West Noble coach Galen Mast said.
Joel Mast and Josh Gross also assisted on baskets by Flores in the fourth quarter as well. Flores finished the game 10-for-13 from the field. His only weakness was at the free-throw line, where he was 1-of-4.
“First half, he kind of wandered around the outside, then in the second half, we challenged him at halftime to really get on the block and see what he can do down there,” Galen Mast said.
After a sloppy first quarter by both teams, West Noble jumped out to a nine-point lead in the second quarter after an 11-0 run, started by a three from Joel Mast, who ended up hitting two outside shots and finished with 11 points.
“That’s how this team is. If you let up just a little bit, they can go on a run in a hurry,” Galen Mast said.
Franklin also finished in double-digits with 11, after he was a perfect 8-for-8 from the charity stripe, and most of those coming in the fourth quarter.
For the Lakers (7-16), the offense struggled to get into any rhythm for most of the game. Brayden Bontrager led the team with 19 points. He hit two shots to cut the deficit to seven before halftime. Bontrager completed a three-point play early in the third to cut the lead to three at 25-22. He would do it again to make it a 36-32 game with seven minutes to go.
“Brayden is a heckuva player. Our goal was to be like one of those laundry sheets, just to be clingy,” Galen Mast said. “That’s the analogy we used, just to be with him. He’s one that we’re really fearful of because he can go off in a hurry. He can go off for 40 (points) just about any night if he’s feeling it.”
Gross was tasked with slowing down Bontrager, and he prevented him from getting any uncontested looks for most of the night.
“That’s been part of the growth on this team all year has been knowing who can beat you, knowing which players and trying not to let those guys go off on certain nights,” Mast said.
After Bontrager cut it to four, Flores and Mast combined to go on a 10-2 run to put the game out of reach for a comeback.
Kole Miller added nine for the Lakers, Calin Kent had seven and Kolton Taylor scored six.