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Juda's quick strike effective
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JUDA - Mike Armitage had a heart-to-heart talk with his Juda boys basketball team in preparation for the WIAA Division 5 regional tournament.

The coach's two major points:

n The Panthers had best turn up the defensive intensity.

n Juda needs somebody to supplement the production of seniors Brandon Bauman and Joey Jordan.

It took only a matter of minutes Tuesday night for Armitage to know his message had been received, as Juda bolted to a 20-point halftime lead en route to a 57-41 victory against Albany in a regional opener.

The No. 5-seeded Panthers (15-6) "blistered" No. 12 Albany (8-14) early with some sizzling 3-point shooting and their sticky team defense did the rest in sending Juda to Friday's regional semifinal at No. 4 Monticello - a 60-48 winner against Princeton on Tuesday.

Asked about his team's tournament-opening effort, Armitage smiled.

"I don't even care how the effort is, the bottom line is we survived and we're moving on," Armitage said. "But I thought our effort was good."

More like outstanding in the first half, when junior guard Matthew Trotter led a 3-point shooting barrage and Albany had major difficulty finding shots.

Trotter scored a game-high 17 points and did most of his heavy lifting early, hitting 4 of 5 from beyond the arc in the game's first nine minutes.

The Panthers' point guard said he was definitely one of the players Armitage was talking to about turning it up in the postseason.

"He said we have two guys (Bauman and Jordan) that can score every night, but the rest of the guys he doesn't know what he's going to get from night to night," Trotter said. "He said I needed to be more of an offensive threat, and I think I came through tonight."

Trotter added that after a strong start shooting from distance this season, he had "kind of slumped a little bit."

"I've been practicing and practicing and practicing and practicing, and it came through for me," he said. "To be honest, I think tonight I flipped the switch back on. It's playoff time - one and done, you know? You've got to come through."

When Trotter wasn't hitting from beyond the arc, Albany was struggling mightily to find shots. The Comets hit just one field goal in each of the first two quarters, and finished the first half shooting 2 of 12. That led to a 28-8 halftime deficit.

Juda shot 9 of 25 in the first half, but 7-for-11 from 3-point range.

"They blistered us at the beginning and we didn't handle ourselves well," Albany coach Derik Doescher said. "We knew we couldn't afford to get behind the eight-ball and we put ourselves in that situation - partly because of Juda's defense. The second half, yeah, we played with a lot more aggressiveness, played with a lot more passion, but you have to expect that because at halftime we were getting run out of the gym."

Albany showed some fight in the third quarter, outscoring Juda 21-15, and trailed 43-30 early in the fourth quarter. But juniors Cody Suiter and Cole Bauman scored off offensive rebounds and Brandon Bauman scored on a drive in a 6-0 run that pushed the lead back to 19.

"I think the defense we played ... I tell the guys all the time, if we play good team defense and make good decisions on offense, then I'm a happy coach," Armitage said. "I think we really did that tonight."

Brandon Bauman finished with 11 points and Jordan 10 for Juda, which will play a Monticello team that beat the Panthers twice - 44-42 in Monticello and 50-49 at home.

Albany sophomore Isaiah Shell finished with 12 points - 11 in the second half - while senior Gavin Ruef, senior Ty Mauerman and junior Tyler VanDusen had nine apiece.