No. 3 Atlantic 86, No. 9 Royal Palm Beach 57: Thomas Owens, Jamal Palmer help Eagles roll
Friday, December 07, 2012
by Jeff Greer
If third-ranked Atlantic and ninth-ranked Royal Palm Beach on Friday night provided a preview of the Class 7A playoffs in a few months, a lot has to change for that potential matchup to be close.
Atlantic started fast and dominated in an 86-57 win, looking a lot like a state-title contender. It was a swift and brutal display of Atlantic's speed, length and depth as the Eagles (5-1) pressed Royal Palm Beach into more than 20 turnovers and scored 28 fast-break points.
Star quarterback-turned-guard Thomas Owens scored 21 points for Atlantic, which led by 32 in the fourth quarter and never let the game get closer than 14 points after the first.
Jamal Palmer, a sophomore guard who has Division I-level talent, added 19 points. His shimmy-and-shake of two defenders, followed by a right-handed reverse layup under another defender, caused a crowd eruption so loud the floor shook. Owens' second-half dunk produced the same response.
"We're definitely capable," Atlantic coach Brad Flaig said of his team's potential for big wins. "That was probably the best defensive effort we've had since 2010."
Atlantic overwhelmed Royal Palm Beach (3-1) in every facet, but most noticeably in terms of pace.
Royal Palm -- with Rob Long, a long-time coach in Palm Beach County, in his first season at the helm -- is not a program built to run like Atlantic does. The Wildcats struggled breaking the press, and when they got across the half-court line, they rushed shots.
It took them three minutes to score their first basket, and they didn't get comfortable until they trailed 20-2.
From that point, Royal Palm did scrap back. Iven Rosier and CJ Hammond each had 11 points, and Royal Palm trimmed its deficit to 57-43 in the third quarter, but the game never got closer.
Atlantic finished on a 29-14 run, fueled in large part by Owens, Todney Evans (14 points) and a resurgent LaTron Nelson, who scored 10 points after struggling for most of the game.
"They played smart and they played hard," Flaig said. "We're eight or nine deep. This is a group we're very comfortable with, and they showed why tonight."