If your coach compares you to a seven-time NFL Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl champion, you probably had a good night.
Andover Central's Zach Winter had a big night.
“Zach's a balhawk. Zach is like Troy Polamalu playing free safety,” said Andover Central head coach Jesse Herrmann. “Sometimes he does it on his own, sometimes it's a little off script, but a lot of times he comes up with the ball. There were a couple big ones there down late.”
With the game against Derby knotted at 39 heading into overtime, Winter morphed into Polamalu – minus the Pittsburgh Steelers' Head and Shoulders hair.
Winter's 3-pointer to open the extra period was a boost, but it was his two steals that frazzled Derby's offense.
“I just tried to read the defense. I just wanted to win the game,” Winter said. “I had to work hard on defense to do that.”
The Jaguars pounced to a five-point edge in overtime they never gave away en route to a 48-45 victory. The triumph handed Derby (8-1) its first loss of the year.
Josiah Ray came up tall for the Panthers, scoring five of his 13 points in overtime and cutting the Jaguars' lead to one, but Andover Central's defense clamped down, forcing a turnover with six seconds to go.
“I don't think we did anything wrong, necessarily,” said Derby head coach Brett Flory. “They made one more play than we did. We played better tonight than some of the games we won by 30.”
Winter polished off a double-double, scoring 14 points and snaring 11 rebounds. He also added four steals.
In the middle of the game, freshman Darraja Parnell carried Andover Central. Parnell scored 15 of his game-high 23 points in the second and third quarters.
“Offensively, he made some shots,” Herrmann said. “He defended OK tonight, too, which we're constantly working on that. He was a big difference tonight, for sure.”
Defense really was the key in the contest. The game was tied 16-16 at halftime. Even with the extra time, Andover Central held Derby to 45 – the Panthers' previous low for points in a game was 56.
It was a reborn Jaguar intensity after they took one on the chin against Kapaun Mt. Carmel on Saturday at Koch Arena.
“We came off a bad loss at Kapaun. We just wanted to come out tonight, play the game and show people we could still play,” Winter said. “(The Kapaun game) was bad. We didn't play well at all.”
Along with his 13 points, Ray grabbed 12 rebounds and punctuated three gym-rattling blocks.
While Andover Central (6-2) gained back some of its lost swagger, Derby has to try to do the same Friday against Salina Central.
“You have to be in games like that. We haven't had a game like that, where every possession is magnified, and now we've had that,” Flory said. “Experience is a hard teacher because you get the test first and the lesson second.”
Andover Central's girls' squad also bounced back from a sluggish loss to Kapaun. The Jaguars led Derby 49-30 in the fourth quarter on its way to a 60-45 win.