Photo: West End’s Thad Pearce (4) blocks the shot attempt of Gaston’s Julian Jones during the Bulldogs’ 63-60 victory in boys basketball last Tuesday (Nov. 30) at GHS. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
A pair of clutch foul shots and a key defensive stop helped Gaston put away a pesky West End team, 63-60, in boys basketball last Tuesday (Nov. 30) at GHS.
After leading by as many as eight points in the fourth quarter, the host Bulldogs found themselves clinging to a two-point lead with 1:23 remaining courtesy of two free throws by the Patriots’ Isaiah Roberson.
The teams exchanged turnovers and missed shots during the next minute. West End had possession with 10 seconds left, but the Patriots turned the ball over on an offensive foul. Gaston’s Justin Pope then nailed two free throws to make it 63-60.
West End corralled the offensive rebound on the Bulldogs’ next possession, but Kendrick Blackwell quickly stole the ball with 4.1 seconds on the clock. The Patriots got the ball back with 2.1 on the clock, but West End’s subsequent 3-point attempt fell short, making Gaston head coach Johnny Amison a happy camper.
“We missed a lot of free throws but hot them when we needed to,” he said. “You’ve got to learn how to execute when it gets close like that, because with a little bit better execution, we wouldn’t have been in that position at the end. But we wound up pulling it out, and I’m proud of our guys. I felt like we made a few mistakes tonight, the good thing is that we’re learning from them.”
Layden Staton led the Bulldogs with 14 points, including eight in the pivotal fourth quarter. Adonis Jones had 13 points, followed by Blackwell with 11, Kodie Bogle with 10, Will Bagley with seven and Pope with five.
In a back and forth first half, the Patriots took a 15-14 lead into the second quarter. Thad Pearce scored seven straight points near the end of the first half to pull the visitors within 27-26, but Gaston made it to halftime with a 34-29 advantage.
The Bulldogs stretched their lead to seven points during the third period before West End pulled within 47-42 after 24 minutes. West End steadily chipped away at the Bulldogs’ cushion, but the Patriots came up short down the stretch.
“I thought we played really hard, but you’ve got to give credit to Gaston; they played really well and made their free throws when they had to make them,” said West End head coach Lance Smith. “They made the plays they needed to make, and we didn’t. We put that one run together late in the fourth quarter to get back in the ball game, but we wound up missing a couple of layups and gave up a couple of open 3’s that hurt us. But our kids competed for all four quarter, so I can’t complain.”
Pearce led the Patriots with 18 points, followed by Eli Golden with 13, Roberson with 11 and Marty Wooten with seven.