MERIDIAN – Behind Gooding’s basket at Meridian High School hung a red and black handmade sign that read, “HAVOC.” Designed and placed by a group of intrepid fans, that five-letter word possesses multiple meanings for the Senators.
And after Gooding’s 66-54 win over defending state champion Parma in the first round of this year’s edition of the tournament, the ambiguity of the phrase became evident.
“It’s kind of our mindset on defense,” said Gooding head coach Chris Comstock. “We don’t get out and press much, but we want to get up in their faces and make people feel uncomfortable.”
“We want to mess things up,” said Gooding senior Bryson Comstock, who scored a game-high 28 points. “We were the third seed at districts, Gooding hasn’t been to state in 31 years and a lot of people overlooked us. We’re here to create havoc.”
Thirty-one years in the making, the Senators rode that havoc to an impressive win.
Senior Jack Darcy led Gooding out of the gate with an early jumper, then followed it up with a three-pointer. Comstock and Tyler Visser pitched in and the Senators were up 8-1 before anyone in the crowd had a chance to blink.
“It was huge to hit those early shots,” Darcy said. “Coaches told us to shoot the ball with confidence, and that’s what I did.”
Defense was Gooding’s calling card throughout the first half as it was able to keep the Panthers on their heels.
“Parma has some great athletes and some kids who can shoot, and we did a great job clamping down on them,” Chris Comstock said.
Meanwhile, the Senators deployed a deliberate, slow-paced offense that still yielded 16 points in the first quarter.
“You know they’re going to be amped up a little bit early on, so we wanted to mix things up and be slower,” Chris Comstock said.
Gooding led 16-7 at the end of the first.
Parma showed its championship mettle in the second as it settled into the game and slowly chipped away at the lead. The Panthers got as close as three points in the first half, but Comstock’s trey in the waning seconds once again boosted the Senator lead back to 6.
Gooding held a 28-22 advantage at the half.
If the Senators began Thursday’s contest on fire, it took the court in the third quarter in full incendiary mode. Comstock hit a 3, Cayden Loveland sunk a jumper, then Visser and Darcy hit consecutive treys and the Gooding lead suddenly stretched to 20 points.
“The moment wasn’t too big for us,” Chris Comstock said. “A lot of kids contributed in one way or another.”
Parma once again settled down and chipped away, but Gooding still led 45-31 after three.
The game grinded to a halt in the fourth quarter as the Panthers tried to lengthen it with fouls and time outs. It worked to a certain degree, but they could never get closer than 9 points.
Gooding sealed the deal at the free throw line and clinched a spot in Saturday’s semifinal game against Sugar-Salem.
“We didn’t come here to mess around,” Chris Comstock said. “We’re getting a sweatshirt, and that’s cool and everything, but we’re going to give it our all just as we have all season.”
“Knocking them off is pretty big for us,” Darcy said. “I’m happy for our guys.”
Payton Pinz led Parma with 23 points while Braydon Jensen had 22.
In addition to Comstock’s 28 points, Visser scored 17 for Gooding, while Darcy had 11 and Loveland had six.
Saturday’s contest between the Senators and Sugar-Salem tips off at Meridian High School at 6:15 p.m.
“We’re going to play loose and approach the game like we’re having the best time of our lives,” Chris Comstock said. “We’re going to enjoy the moment and try to get a win.”
Gooding 66, Parma 54
Gooding; 16; 12; 17; 21;-66
Parma; 8; 14; 9; 23;-54
Comstock 28, Visser 17, Darcy 11, Loveland 6, Pamplona 2, Funkhouser 2 Totals 21 17-23 66.