By Chris McCarthy/Publisher/Editor
In addition to its other early-season accomplishments, the Westbrook Christian boys basketball team proved last Tuesday (Dec. 11) that it is capable of responding after absorbing a direct hit.
After squandering a12-point fourth-quarter lead in the space of a minute and a half, the seventh-ranked Warriors (8-2) converted enough free throws down the stretch to secure a 66-58 victory over Ashville in Rainbow City.
Following a tight first half in which neither team led by more than five points, the hosts went up by double digits when Colin Edwards’ field goal and two foul shots provided Westbrook with a 52-40 advantage at 7:29 of the fourth quarter.
That margin was short-lived, as the Bulldogs (10-2) knocked down four 3-point baskets over the next 1:29 to force a tie.
Ashville’s barrage led to a Westbrook timeout at the six-minute mark.
“We were in the driver’s seat at that point, and we just took some stupid shots and made some dumb turnovers that let them get back into the game,” said Westbrook head coach Seth Ford. “We have a lot of juniors and seniors who know better than that. Ashville’s one of those teams that kind of lives and dies by the three-pointer, so I definitely wasn’t comfortable at all (when Westbrook went up by 12 points) because of the firepower they had. That timeout was all about better shot selection and staying focused.”
The Warriors gradually regained control following Ford’s pep talk. With Westbrook in the bonus free throw situation for most of the final period, the hosts scored 10 of their final 14 points via the charity stripe, making 9-of-20 foul shots over the final 4:42.
“We were a little inconsistent at the line, but we made enough of them down the stretch,” said Ford.
Ray Harris’ trey with 45 seconds left pulled the visitors within 62-58, but Jerryn Migliore, Alex Perkins and Jonathan Ford combined to go 4-for-8 over the last final 44 seconds to secure the win.
Four Warriors scored in double figures, led by Perkins with 18 points. Edwards finished with 15 points, followed by Ford with 13 and Migliore with 10.
Harris paced the Bulldogs with 18 points, all on 3-point baskets, while Jacob Bothwell added 10.
Ashville connected on 13 3-point baskets, while the Warriors hit six from downtown.
Ashville head coach Anthony Rice pointed to the discrepancy in free throw shooting as a major factor in his team’s loss. The Bulldogs converted 5-of-10 foul shots, while Westbrook shot 18-for-32.
“That was the difference in the game. We were settling for the ‘3’ too much and not attacking the lane. We’re a little short-handed in the post right now, and that makes it tough to match up on the boards and we can’t match up too well defensively with the big kids. But even though we lost, it was a good game to play because it made us better.”
Ashville jumped out to leads of 7-2 and 9-4 before Westbrook ended the first quarter on a 12-5 run.
Perkins hit a pair of 3-pointers during the above stretch, with his second trey giving the hosts a 16-14 lead after eight minutes.
The lead changed hands eight times during the second quarter, with the teams trading one and two-point advantages before J.T. Williams’ bucket with 18 seconds left sent the Warriors into halftime ahead 27-26.
Westbrook pulled away during the third frame with a 14-4 stretch. Edwards notched eight points during the quarter, included a pair of 3-pointers. The Warriors were up by as many as 11 points before Ashville drew within 48-40 at the start of the fourth.
“Our guys just don’t give up,” said Ford. “No matter what the situation is, they think they’re going to win, and that’s a good mindset to have.”