Perry’s Janier Puente had a big night, and it should come as no surprise.
The senior put away 20 points in the first half and added another 13 in the second to help the Blue Jays ease past Gilbert 76-67 Monday night in Boone. The win sets up a date with the Raccoon River Conference Champion Boone Thursday night.
“Janier just plays really hard,” Perry head coach Dennis McDonnell said. “He’s worked his butt off all year.
“We rely on him a lot. I knew that we had a little bit of a height advantage, so it just happened to work out in our favor.”
Offensively, Puente his 20 of his career-high 33 points in the first. He had 10 as part of part of Perry’s 25-point first quarter, outscoring Gilbert 25-6 through the first eight minutes. The Blue Jays took a 39-22 lead into the locker room, only to allow the Tigers a chance to get even closer.
After Perry got out to a 22-point lead in the third quarter, Gilbert stormed back with a 10-0 run, forcing McDonnell to use a timeout to regroup. His team came out refreshed, and by the end of the third quarter, had the lead back up to 18.
Once again, Gilbert made the game interesting, cutting the deficit from 17 with just over three minutes to play down to single digits, helped in large part by the Blue Jays giving away needless turnovers.
“The last three minutes, I was really excited,” McDonnell said. “It didn’t look very good at the end.”
Puente’s previous career-high point total came in December against Adel-DeSoto-Minburn, as part of Perry’s first win of the season. Since the win against ADM, Puente has averaged 19.6 points and 11.6 rebounds per game, including the 33 points and career-high 19 rebounds Monday night.
With the Blue Jays running past Gilbert, Perry will have a chance to exact some revenge on Boone. The Toreadors beat Perry in both regular-season meetings, and the last game seemed to really sting.
“We really feel like we let one get away from us last time,” said McDonnell. “We’re really looking forward to this. When we found out they were in our bracket, we were really excited. We just want another crack at them.”
In the last meeting between these two teams, the Blue Jays led most of the way, but gave up a three-point bucket with 20 seconds left to fall 50-49. Boone’s win secured the conference title on Perry’s home court.
Thursday’s game will start at 7 p.m. at the Boone High School gym.