The Central Bears (1-0) opened their season with a dominant 92-62 win over the Sunlake Seahawks (0-1) at John J. Sedlack Court on Tuesday night. Following last year’s squad that boasted a 22-7 record, how could this team fair with many of those players no longer around? Central Bears Head Coach Matt Zandecki called the 2022 group “so deep,” and that was evident on Tuesday. Despite the departures, the home team picked up where they left off as the Bears won their season and home opener with four former-juniors-turned-starting-seniors.
“I was really pumped up how we came out,” Coach Zandecki said. “We came out with a lot of energy. I think we got on them early. We got their best player in foul trouble, which I think really set the tone. I thought we set the tone early. Our pressure really is contagious, and I thought we played with a lot of energy. So, I’m proud.”
The Bears got off to a fast start as they nabbed the opening possession and scored four seconds into the game on a Senior David Villarroel layup. By the time Seahawks Head Coach Michael Davis called his team’s first time out, the home team was up a quick 14-7 less than four minutes into the matchup. This was thanks in large part to Senior F/G Jeroen “JD” Watson, who scored 5 points by the break and 12 of the Bears’ 27 by the end of the first quarter. The tallest member of the team at 6’9”, Watson provided more than just scoring. He was constantly disrupting the opposition’s offense with a block and a trio of steals in the initial period alone, and he provided the juice for the home crowd. He slammed down an early dunk and he nearly logged another one later on.
“All summer, [Watson] was in North Carolina AAU,” said Coach Zandecki. “So, this is the first summer I really got to work with him. He’s an elite player. He’s a stud. He’s going to make some college very happy one day. I’m glad he played like that because that’s what he’s capable of, and he just kind of introduced himself to the north Suncoast how hard he’s been working. So, I’m proud of him. He really took over the game from the very beginning.”
The game was not all Watson, though; it was a full team effort. Guards Ethan Bergantino and Braden Joyner, alongside Villaroel and Tykel Williams, all played their parts in a matchup that was never in doubt. Coming out of the half leading 54-30, they did not give the Seahawks the opportunity to claw back into the game. Watson, Bergantino, and Williams all scored in the first two minutes out of intermission to give the home team a 30-plus point lead.
The visitors held onto a puncher’s chance in the fourth quarter after momentarily cutting the lead to 18, but that faded quickly. Bergantino, the only non-senior in the starting lineup, scored Central’s first two points of the final quarter and Joyner netted the next four. A technical foul called on the Seahawks punctuated the eventual 30-point victory for the home team.
Sunlake will look to make a better second impression when they travel for the second time in as many days to face the Springstead Eagles. Head Coach Matt McGarry’s Eagles will host the Seahawks at 7:00 PM in their home opener. The Bears will have a week to prepare for their next opponent, as they will host the Lecanto Panthers on November 28. Coach Zandecki noted a couple of areas he would like to see his squad continue to work on throughout the season: “We got to develop our bench. We got to start executing more and just keep coming together. I thought today was a good first step.”