Ty-Shon Pannell is in the gym every morning at 5 a.m. with his father to create moments like these.
The 5-9 point guard for the Central Islip boys basketball team knows he will never come across as the most intimidating player in stature when he steps on the court. But once the ball is in his hands and the whistle blows, everything changes.
Pannell was nearly unstoppable in the first half with 27 points, including seven three-pointers, in the first 16 minutes of host Central Islip’s 60-58 victory over Ward Melville Tuesday afternoon in Suffolk League I boys basketball.
“Honestly, as soon as I step over half court, I’m comfortable,” said Pannell, who finished with 34 points. “So if they give me that space, I’m going to make them respect me. When I’m hitting, I feel like I’m in a wide open parking lot, just shooting.”
The senior guard was knocking down shots from well beyond NBA range Tuesday — and making it look easy. “He has unlimited range,” coach Jim Mott said. “And when he’s in one of those streaks and he’s knocking them down, he’s our big gun and we are going to ride him. League I basketball, it’s always exciting.”
But Ward Melville (4-3) didn’t quit after a substantial deficit. After trailing 58-44 following three quarters, the Patriots held Central Islip (6-2) without a field goal in the fourth quarter, and had the final possession trailing by two points. But Frantzy Jean-Baptiste’s tough defense forced a contested turnaround jumper for the final shot, which missed.
“Frantzy accepts that role, he understands that role and he brings a lot of energy,” Mott said. “He’s a tough kid and that’s what we have to be coming down the stretch — tough.”
“That was the last possession,” Jean-Baptiste said, “so I was just trying to pick up the intensity and give him a hard time.”
Jean-Baptiste is often tasked with guarding the opposing team’s top scorer, so that’s how he practices. He often guards Pannell, who is averaging 24.4 points per game, in practice, which makes both of them better.
“It’s tough, [Pannell] can shoot,” Jean-Baptiste said. “I don’t know how to explain it, he’s one of a kind.”
And even though the win wasn’t easy, the Musketeers hope the victory can help the team with the playoffs approaching.
“We really have to stress keeping our foot on the gas because sometimes when we see the score spread out, that’s when we let up a little bit,” Pannell said. “But here on out, we have to keep our foot on the gas until that last buzzer.”