Late in the game, barrel-chested Jerel Stephenson muscled his way through traffic down the lane for a layup.
In his first on-court action in two years, Stephenson showed no signs of rust for Paine on Saturday.
In his Lions debut, Stephenson scored a game-high 23 points as Paine rolled to an 87-61 win over West Georgia.
“I was real nervous at the beginning of the game,” Stephenson said. “After the first five minutes, it became a normal game for me.”
Stephenson, a power forward shot 11 for 16 from the field, adding 11 rebounds, three assists and three steals. Mario Jordan posted 15 points for Paine, while Kenny Fluellen had 13.
Paine, which plays at USC Aiken on Wednesday night, improved to 2-2 on the season. The Lions dominated down low, shooting 53 percent from the field.
Along with Stephenson, sophomore guard Kedric Taylor made his season debut for the Lions, scoring 14 points off the bench. Taylor was kicked off the team at the beginning of the school year for violation of team rules.
Stephenson, a 6-5, 220-pound junior became eligible after Paine finished its exams. The former Glenn Hills standout played at UNC Wilmington for a year before transferring to Aiken Tech (2010-11). He sat out a year before joining Paine in January.
When Stephenson entered the school, his coaches and teammates started calling him “Snacks,” because of his excess weight. He started working out and dropped 25 pounds.
The slimmer Stephenson dominated against West Georgia.
“He looked real good,” coach Jimmy Link said. “We’re playing him at the four because he does create mis-match problems.”
Paine handed West Georgia (4-4) its worst defeat of the season. The Wolves, led by Sean Boston’s 19 points, shot 31 percent from the field.