|Springfield Central junior Jorge Torres takes flight for a dunk at the Spalding Hoophall Classic.|
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - After leading his Springfield Central squad past rival Putnam at Springfield College, junior Jorge Torres couldn't help but enjoy beating a team that had already caused him so much anguish in his career.
Thanks in large part to Torres' 19 points, eight rebounds and two blocks, Central (7-0) outlasted Putnam (3-4), 66-59, in the night cap of the Spalding Hoophall Classic's local night on Thursday. It was a stark contrast to last year's game, which Putnam won handily, before the Beavers defeated the Golden Eagles twice more that season.
Clearly, revenge was on Torres' mind.
"I know I was thinking about (last year), Torres said. "They beat us and disrespected us at Hoophall. They beat us and disrespected us on our home court, and they beat us and disrespected us at AIC. We were ready tonight."
The Golden Eagles did come out firing, opening the game on an 8-3 run, led by four early points and two quick blocks by sophomore center Hason Ward. Defensive energy would carry the Golden Eagles into the second quarter, as three steals led to six points early in the period for Central.
Then, leading by five, a Putnam turnover quickly became a thunderous one-handed jam by Torres. The flush brought the packed crowd to its feet, and gave the Golden Eagles a 26-19 lead midway through the second. Putnam's Jalen Bruce nailed a pair of jumpers, then buried a three at the buzzer of the half to send us to intermission with Central clinging to a 33-30 advantage.
Putnam kept its momentum rolling in the third, with star sophomore Taelon Martin hitting a jumper, then a pair of free throws to give the Beavers their first lead. But, Martin would miss a dunk opportunity in transition, and Torres would throw down a slam of his own on the other end to seize back momentum for Central.
Torres would then score on back-to-back putbacks to stretch the Central advantage to seven points, 48-41. Then it would turn into the Josh Pressly show for Central, as the senior guard asserted himself on the offensive end, scoring the Golden Eagles' next nine points to hold off a suddenly red-hot Putnam offense. The Beavers pulled it to as close as 59-57, but every time Putnam pulled it within two, Pressly answered with a jumper or a slashing layup.
"I just saw he could score from everywhere," Torres said of Pressly. "He got us buckets when we really needed them."
But, in the end, it would come down to Torres, who scored on a cutting layup to give the Golden Eagles a six point advantage, then block a shot to lock up the victory on the other end.
The win gives Springfield Central another feather in its cap, and removes the proverbial monkey from the Golden Eagles' back. But beating Putnam at one of the county's most prestigious tournaments isn't enough. Central has much larger ambitions.
"I want to win Western Mass, then states," Torres said. "I think we have the potential to win Western Mass and states."