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Grand Forks Central's Erick Paye, Wilber brothers spark season-opening win over East Grand Forks

Paye scored 26 points as the Knights beat the Green Wave 77-59 in the Central gym.

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Knights center Erick Paye (12) drives the ball as the Green Wave's Caleb Zejdlik paces him down the court at Grand Forks Central High School in the first half of a boys basketball game on Friday, December 2, 2022.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS — Grand Forks Central 6-foot-4 junior Erick Paye was asked what he focused on in the offseason.

Paye, already one of the most physically imposing athletes in the area in years, averaged more than 15 points per game last season.

"More of an offensive threat," Paye said.

It's just one game into his junior year, but that appears to be a dangerous development for opposing defenses.

Paye scored 26 points to lead the Knights to a 77-59 win over East Grand Forks on Friday night in the Central gym.

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"I go out there and do whatever it takes to win," Paye said.

It was a combination of Paye's physical dominance and the sharp-shooting of brothers Ross and Cole Wilber that helped the Knights build separation.

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Grand Forks Central guard Ross Wilber (4) celebrates his three-pointer late in the first half of a nonconference boys basketball game against the East Grand Forks Senior High Green Wave at Grand Forks Central High School on Friday, December 2, 2022.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

Paye had 10 points in the game's first 10 minutes but a drive by East Grand Forks' Cooper Smith kept the Wave hanging around at 19-15 Central with 7:15 left in the first half.

That's when Cole Wilber, a 5-9 junior guard, and Ross Wilber, a 5-7 sophomore guard, hit back-to-back 3-pointers to stretch the lead to 10 points.

Central coach Dan Carlson told the Wilber brothers they'll have extra space to operate when Paye controls the inside.

"(Paye) goes well, and you're going to get shots," Carlson said of his message. "(Paye) had a run, and they're getting wide-open jumpers. I thought we were good in transition. We got good transition shots. The more easy shots you can get the better."

Ross Wilber finished with 16 points, while Cole Wilber had 10. Jack Simmers chipped in eight points.

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Grand Forks Central guard Cole Wilber (5) sprints with the ball as the Green Wave's Damian Bushaw (20) gives chase late in the first half of a boys basketball game at Grand Forks Central High School on Friday, December 2, 2022.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

"Our team is confident in our shooters," Paye said. "Those are some great shooters."

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The Knights led 36-27 at halftime and the game was never closer than nine points the rest of the way.

The Wave were led by Austin Risling and Clyde Anderson. Both players ended with 14 points. Drew Carpenter had 10 points, while Caleb Zejdlik added eight.

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East Grand Forks Senior High head boys basketball coach Josh Perkerewicz, center, celebrates a Green Wave point during a boys basketball matchup against the Knights at Grand Forks Central High School on Friday, December 2, 2022.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

The Wave have a reputation for pressure defense, and Carlson felt the Knights handled it well.

"I thought we handled the aggressiveness well," Carlson said. "That's great to have for a first game. We turned it over too much, but we didn't shy away from it. We played strong."

The Knights even used Paye in the open court to escape some of the backcourt pressure.

"I think he's worked on his game to handle the ball a little more," Carlson said. "He should. He's a young man, why not expand that part of his game? We're going to look for him to do that a little bit."

GF Central 77, EGF Senior High 59

Halftime: GFC 36, EGF 27

EGF Senior High – Austin Risling 14, Clyde Anderson 14, Chase Lindgren 3, Drew Carpenter 10, Cooper Smith 7, Damian Bushaw 3, Caleb Zejdlik 8

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GF Central – Jack Simmers 8, Ross Wilber 16, Cole Wilber 10, Leo Strandell 6, Erick Paye 26, Trey Wyman 6, Chancellor Colgrove 2, Noah Lund 6

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East Grand Forks Senior High forward Austin Rusling (1) drives the ball against Grand Forks Central's Leo Strandell (11) during a nonconference boys basketball game at Grand Forks Central High School on Friday, December 2, 2022.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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