Photo: Westbrook Christian’s Eli Edge (13) drives to the basket as Hokes Bluff’s Jordan Presely defends during the Eagles’ 55-38 victory in boys basketball last Tuesday (Jan. 10) in Rainbow City. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Credit grace under pressure as a key factor in Hokes Bluff’s 55-38 victory over Etowah County neighbor and Class 3A, Area 12 rival Westbrook Christian last Tuesday (Jan. 10) in Rainbow City.
The Warriors (14-4) looked to be in decent shape after Landon Armstrong’s three-point basket provided the hosts with a 34-41 lead with two minutes remaining in the third quarter.
That did not turn out be the case.
The Eagle defense effectively shut down the Westbrook sharpshooters the rest of the way, as the Warriors managed one field goal and four points over the final 10 minutes.
As No. 9 Hokes Bluff (14-4) stretched its lead to double digits by the midway point of the fourth period, Westbrook’s attempt to get points off turnovers by using traps and pressure defense went for naught, as the Eagle ballhandlers passed their way out of trouble time and time again. Jordan Presley’s basket with less than three minutes to go gave Hokes Bluff an 11-point cushion, and the visitors went 7-for-8 at the free throw line down the stretch to secure the win.
“I thought the difference for us in the second half was our poise,” said Hokes Bluff basketball coach Jason Presley. “’[Westbrook] has a really good half-court and full-court trap, and we did a good job of moving the ball out of certain areas and getting it to the other side of the floor.”
Presley pointed to the play of senior point guard Landon Davenport in particular. Davenport finished with a game-high 19 points along with nine rebounds, five assists and two steals.
“He did a great job of finding the open areas and putting us in a position to make plays,” said Presley.
Also for the Eagles, Jordan Presley had eight points, four rebounds and four assists; Colby Smith had eight points and five boards and Anderson Morgan had seven points, four assists and three steals. John Clark Wetzel chipped in seven points.
Westbrook coach Seth Ford pointed to Hokes Bluff’s ability to dictate the tempo of the game as a major factor.
“The game was played at [Hokes Bluff’s] pace, and they made some timely buckets. We try to play really fast, and we just couldn’t hurry [Hokes Bluff] up. It seemed like [Hokes Bluff] was making 10 or 15 passes before shooting it, and we just couldn’t speed them up. It was a low-scoring game, and we’re more comfortable in the 60’s and 70’s.
“They’re a junior and senior-laden team, and they showed a lot of poise, and those types of team tend to handle pressure and take
Eli Edge and Cooper Greer paced Westbrook with eight points each, followed by Nolan Terrell with seven and Brady Carden with five. Greer pulled down five rebounds, while Terrell and John Gilchrist each cleared four. Edge also contributed four steals and three assists.
In a mostly back-and-forth first half, the game was tied 19-19 late in the second quarter before the Eagles finished the period on a 6-0 run. Davenport scored 11 of Hokes Bluff’s 13 points in the third to make it 37-34 entering the final eight minutes. Edge helped Westbrook’s keep pace with six points.
“Our defense has been consistent all season, so we’ve been staying in a lot of games that we really shouldn’t be in,” said Jason Presley. “That’s a testament to what our kids have brought into with covering for each other on defense. Our defense has been a real mainstay for us.”