By Chris McCarthy/Editor
The Westbrook Christian boys basketball team had an unusually poor shooting night on Thursday (Feb. 16), and the Warriors paid the price in the Class 2A Northeast Regional Tournament semifinals at Jacksonville State.
Westbrook (26-7) shot just 33 percent (21-for-63) from the field and 21 percent (5-for-24) from the three-point line in a 58-53 loss to Lafayette.
The Warriors kept pace throughout most of the game and trailed only 46-42 entering the fourth quarter. Senior guard Will Jones scored the first six Westbrook points of the final period and Braden Beecham notched a pair of baskets to keep the Rainbow City squad within 52-50 with just under four minutes remaining.
But the Warriors did not convert on their next few possessions, and the Bulldogs built a 58-50 lead with 37 seconds to go.
Jones nailed a three-point basket with 21 seconds on the clock to pull Westbrook within five points, but the Warriors missed their final two shots.
Although Westbrook had a clear advantage on the boards with a 41 to 26 edge, head coach Donny Pruitt noted that too many of those rebounds did not result in points.
“We just couldn’t knock them down,” he said. “We got the ball inside a lot but just couldn’t finish like we needed to. We had at least five open lay-ups in the first half that we didn’t get, and those might have made a difference later on. We pretty well did everything that we wanted to do except knock down our shots. We also didn’t get to the free throw line (six times) as much as I would have liked. But our guys played really hard and played with a lot of confidence tonight, and I couldn’t have asked anything more out of them.”
Jones finished with 20 points, including four 3-point baskets. He also had five rebounds and two steals.
Beecham scored 10 points, while Tyler Self contributed nine points and eight rebounds. Cullen Stafford added eight points and six rebounds, while John Hilliard Catanzaro distributed six assists.
A pair of three-pointers by Jones in the last minute of the first quarter forced a 1-17- tie. An 8-0 run midway through the second period gave Westbrook its largest lead of the game at 32-26 before Lafayette (20-8) closed within 32-30 at halftime.
Westbrook lost the lead for good early in the third quarter but stayed within striking distance the rest of the way. Sub-par shooting , however, ultimately proved to be the Warriors’ undoing down the stretch.
My’Kale Trammell and Jatarvious Whitlow each scored 11 points for Lafayette.
Pruitt noted that only two players on the team were full-time players last season and that he would miss his four seniors – Jones, Catanzaro, Self and Hunter Skipper.
“That was about the toughest locker room that I’ve been in after a game,” said Pruitt. “Those seniors were really good kids and good leaders. The biggest thing they did was to make everybody feel a part of the team, which is so important. From a coaching standpoint, that makes your job a whole lot easier. This was a special group of young men.”