After a few too many turnovers early on, Neuqua Valley coach Todd Sutton did some math and didn't like the numbers.
Sutton's Wildcats had given away the ball four times less than four minutes into Thursday's contest at Lake Park, and visions of committing a boatload of turnovers danced in his head. Luckily for the Wildcats, the Upstate Eight Valley leaders had a big-time turnover turnaround and went on to knock off the Lancers 72-46.
After the four early mistakes, Neuqua Valley (21-2, 9-1) committed just two turnovers the rest of the way, including none in the second half. That second half featured a 29-7 advantage by Neuqua in the third quarter, as Lake Park had no answers for the visitors.
"I was counting those turnovers early and I was calculating and I'm thinking, that's 38 for a game," Sutton said after the sluggish start that had the score tied 8-8. "I swear I said that, 38 turnovers in a game."
But Neuqua Valley was never really threatened, not with Darien Miskel and Pat Kenny on fire in the first half and Jabari Sandifer and Connor Raridon taking over in the huge third quarter. Miskel had 6 field goals and 13 points in the first half on his way to 16 points, while Kenny scored 7 of his 13 points in the first half as the Wildcats led 32-24 at the half.
"I thought my scoring production was a little low the last couple games and I wanted to get in a rhythm early," said Miskel, a senior forward. "I wanted to really get the ball in the hole early and feel good."
Miskel scored 10 points as Neuqua took an 18-12 lead after one quarter and then had a steal and a slam dunk during the third quarter, which also featured a 13-point explosion by Sandifer and 5 points from Raridon.
"We were thrilled to be up 8 at the half and I can't explain the third quarter," Sutton said. "It just happened. We defended and we rebounded and the ball was going in the basket."
Lake Park coach Josh Virostko noted that the Lancers' freshman and sophomore teams each knocked off Neuqua for the first time, but he added that the varsity squad needs to play at a higher level to hang with the Wildcats. Earlier this season Lake Park (13-8, 3-6) played the Wildcats much closer than they did Thursday.
"We talked about transition defense and rebounds," he said. "That's where they killed us in the first half. They're going to make tough shots. Kenny will hit some tough turnaround shots and Sandifer is going hit tough shots. But if you give them easy baskets on rebounds or transition, you're in for a long night. We weren't physical enough to offset their athleticism."
Carlos Cortez and Melvin Kimbrough each had 10 points to pace Lake Park, while Sandifer led all scorers after his big third quarter and finished the night with 18 points and 4 steals.