RACINE — During his silent second half, it didn’t appear that Larry Canady would reach the 1,000-point career threshold.
And then his trickle turned into a gush.
The junior guard scored Park’s final eight points when it mattered most and the Park High School boys basketball team defeated Milwaukee Riverside 63-57 Saturday afternoon in a WIAA Division 1 regional championship at Park.
The Panthers (20-4), ranked seventh in Division 1 in the final Associated Press state poll of the season, advance to a sectional semifinal Thursday night at Milwaukee South. They will play Milwaukee Marquette (13-11), which defeated No. 1 seed Franklin 64-49 on Saturday.
After Park took a 10-0 lead, Riverside came back and took a lead a few times in the second half behind Milwaukee City Conference Player of the Year Carlos Curtis (21 points, 13 rebounds). The game was still hanging in the balance with 3:24 to play, with Park leading 55-51 and starter Richie Warren heading to the bench with his fifth foul.
And then Canady took over, scoring the Panthers’ final eight points. He finished with 17 points and a career-high 16 rebounds.
“We were having trouble scoring, so it was just me as a captain taking over for my team and being aggressive,” said Canady, a three-year starter who increased his career point total to 1,001. “I was aggressive, I got buckets and we won the game.”
First-year Riverside coach Justin Hullum, who had been an assistant to Horlick coach Jason Treutelaar the previous five seasons, was hardly surprised.
“I’ve seen Larry since freshman year,” Hullum said. “He’s a heck of a player — very smart and makes a lot of really good decisions out there.
“Like I told my guys, even if he doesn’t start out hot, you always have to keep a hand in his face closing out. You really have to pick your poison because he can shoot and he can get to the basket.”
It was the latter for Canady down the stretch, who was a force inside despite his 6-2 height. Without his surge, this game could have played out much differently.
“It’s hard not to be,” said junior center Nobal Days, when asked if he was concerned about being behind a Riverside team that was paced by the 6-3 Curtis, who has signed with East Tennessee State. “Anything can happen in this game. It’s playoff time. I was nervous, but I was also confident in my team.”
There was some mild drama at the end. Park led 63-55 with six seconds left when there was a brief scuffle on the court. Days held Ricky Canady to the floor until emotions got under control, but two technical fouls were called on Park (Larry and Ricky Canady) and one on Riverside (Montrell Jacobs).
Curtis made two free throws to pull Riverside (16-7) within 63-57. Riverside got the ball because of the technical, but a desperation 3-point shot was well off the mark and Park held on.
While Larry Canady stepped up at the end, Zyiere Carey and Warren helped carry the load in the second half, when Riverside made several runs. Warren scored eight of his 12 points and Carey had five of his 10 the second half.
“You guys write about Days, Canady and (Rance) Kendrick in the newspaper,” Days said. “I like it when they’re not written about because the other guys are good players. Richie probably had eight or 10 points down in the block and Zyiere was a sparkplug off the bench.”
It was a team effort, which is just way Park coach Jim Betker likes it.
“I was proud of how we finished,” Betker said. “Riverside is a very good team. Justin does a great job with those kids and we knew it was going to be tough. It was a hard-fought victory.”
The question now is whether Park can win two more games and reach the WIAA state tournament for the first time since 1960. Hullum certainly liked what he saw from the Panthers.
“I think they’re very capable with their size,” he said. “Nobal is 6-9, you have Richie who’s 6-4 and then everybody else, for the most part, has great length.
“They’re very athletic and this team has been together pretty much since Day One. So they have that cohesiveness that can take them as far as they want.”