COLUMBIA — If the Fr. Tolton Regional Catholic High School boys basketball team needs to stray away from jump shots, don’t tell sophomore guard Michael Porter Jr.
Porter scored a game-high 28 points in the Trailblazers’ 59-44 win against Duchense High School on Tuesday, most of them coming on smooth, pull-up jumpers.
“He found a rhythm, that’s for sure,” Tolton coach Jeremy Osborne said.
Never mind the slower pace Osborne urged in practice this week. Tolton (13-2) bounced back with the win after an overtime loss Sunday when when the Trailblazers played too fast, Osborne said, and took too many jumpers.
Layups would be nice, but it’s hard to keep Porter off the perimeter when he can’t miss.
“He’s a really good shooter as it is,” Osborne said, “but once he gets into a rhythm, the basket gets a little bit bigger.”
And even when Porter struggled — missing four straight shots after a 3-pointer to open the second half — his 6-foot-8 frame can get to the rim with ease. He ended the cold stretch with a double-clutch dunk. It put the Trailblazers up 44-35 and out of reach for the Pioneers.
Porter spun through the lane for a jump shot on his next touch. That feathery stroke is a move the highly touted recruit is trying to perfect, he said.
If Tolton practices from 4 to 6 p.m., the early slot for teams vying for gym time, he comes back to school around 8 p.m., he said, to take some more jump shots.
“Something a lot of players don’t have is a pull-up jumper,” Porter said. Three of his four 3-pointers came off a single bounce, sending the ball from the floor to his right shoulder in one fluid motion. “It’s something that I’ve been working on, and it’s game-ready.”
Senior center Josh Boyer said the Trailblazers have enough offensive weapons to outpace other teams, even if their opponents make a run.
Ryan Briscoe scored nine points in the second quarter during a 10-1 Pioneer run, but senior guard Brennan Church countered with a layup and Porter with a stop-and-pop three.
“A lot of people can get buckets,” Boyer said. “You trust all your teammates to make shots.”
For Osborne, that kind of counter-attack is encouraging.
“You’ve got to be able to win ugly,” he said.
For most of the night, that was the game’s style: a half-court battle that sent shooters careening around screens and forwards ambling for position in the post.
Boyer grabbed 11 rebounds for Tolton. Sophomore point guard Isaiah Wilson — all 5-foot-11 of him — picked up five more.
“We gang rebound, and Josh is our best rebounder,” Osborne said. “He has a motor.”
Those boards allowed the Trailblazers to control the tempo of the game, he said, and grind out a game that was close throughout.
And when Tolton needed a bucket, Porter was there. His gangly frame skied above Duchense’s front line to grab rebounds, throw down a dunk or block a shot off the backboard.
“It takes a lot of pressure off you,” Boyer said.
Supervising editor is Sean Morrison.