WINTER GARDEN — The Dr. Phillips Panthers played their first Metro Conference opponent of 2015 on Wednesday and made a resounding statement to open the spring semester, scoring a 79-56 victory over West Orange on the road.
The Panthers (8-7) trailed 14-11 early after the Warriors got off to a strong start, but Dr. Phillips outscored West Orange 27-7 the rest of the way in the first half and never looked back.
“Our half-court defense has been really good our last five or six games,” Panthers coach Anthony Long explained afterward. “We haven’t had a great record that last five or six games — but our half-court defense has been great.
“And the different tonight is we added our transition defense … when we can get our transition defense playing well, in addition to how we’re playing in the half-court, we’re going to give some people some problems.”
Dr. Phillips was led by a pair of double-doubles from Jonathan Laurent (20 points, 10 rebounds) and Malik William (13 rebounds, 11 points). David Stephen added 18 points, but it was Laurent, who scored 16 of his 20 points in the first half, who really set the tone for the Panthers.
“(Laurent) played great — this is one of his best games that he has played for us at Dr. Phillips,” Long said. “He was all over the offensive boards, he was getting all the loose balls, he was great in transition.”
West Orange, which was fresh off of a third place finish at the Kingdom of the Sun Tournament in Ocala over the holiday break, fell to 9-6 with the setback to the Panthers.
“(Dr. Phillips) stayed the course, they usually do, and we didn’t maintain the intensity level that we needed,” Warriors coach Eric Jones said.
West Orange was led by Quinton Forrest’s game-high 22 points. Decary Croaker added 11 points on the night.
Dr. Phillips, which has played a rugged schedule to this point, will continue that theme as they prepare for games against elite teams in Central Florida over the next two weeks.
“We’ve got Evans (on Jan. 13) and TFA (The First Academy) (on Saturday) coming up here,” Long said. “We just want to continue to play half-court defense the way we have been playing and then just clean up some of our transition issues and I think we’ll be able to compete against anyone left on our schedule.”