January 19, 2013 11:11:36 PM
WEST POINT -- On a cold night in the Golden Triangle, there was no shortage of heat in the West Point High School gymnasium as the school's boys basketball team faced rival New Hope.
That energy erupted after West Point's Trey Williams hit a high-arcing 3-pointer from the corner and was fouled. The shot gave the Green Wave the lead with two minutes to go. The junior's free throw helped put West Point back in front for the first time since it lead 2-0, and it held on for a 67-63 victory.
"I really felt like in the first quarter we missed a lot of shots in the lanes we usually make," West Point coach Brad Cox said about his team's performance in the first quarter performance that saw it fall behind 17-8.
While West Point (12-7, 1-1 district) started slowly, New Hope (12-8, 2-1) came out aggressively, attacking the basket in the first eight minutes. That mentality paid off as the Trojans were 6 of 8 from the free-throw line.
New Hope continued to dominate in the second quarter. Williams (23 points) kept West Point in it by making two 3-pointers and going 4 of 6 from the free-throw line to finish with 12 points in the half. Still, West Point trailed 40-27 deficit at the half.
"We missed 6 of 7 free throws in the first half," Cox said. "We were down 13 at half, but if we make our shots we are right there. Giving up 40 in the first half is not good. Defensively we had a lot of things to do at half. The key was to stay with it and no one panic."
New Hope used a 5-0 run to extend its lead to 45-27 in the third quarter. Much like in the first half, New Hope's Jaylon Bardley (19 points) spearheaded the scoring. The sophomore scored on a transition layup and hit a 3-pointer.
Despite the 18-point deficit, Cox preached to his players to stay calm.
"You have a long time. The second half gives you a long time left to play," Cox said. "Being down big we just wanted to chip away the lead. We wanted to cut it in half in the third and keep playing."
Williams answered the call, scoring six points to start a 9-0 run that cut the deficit to nine.
"Coach said to come out and play hard," Williams said. "We had to shoot the ball with confidence and play hard."
Williams listened to his coach's message and stayed calm. His four 3-pointers and eight free throws were integral parts of the comeback.
"I just felt it tonight," Williams said of his shooting. "When I shot the ball it just felt right and everything was going in."
West Point outscored New Hope 16-11 in the third quarter to cut the Trojans' lead to 51-43 with eight minutes remaining. The Green Wave made their final push from the free-throw line. After hitting 9 of 16 in the first three quarters, West Point was 15 of 19 in the fourth quarter.
A.J. Jones, who made six free throws, knows that practice makes perfect.
"Coach has us practicing free throws all day every day," said Jones. "I think it's paying off for us now though."
Trailing 59-52 with 4 minutes, 27 seconds to go, West Point made eight free throws in a row to trim the deficit to 61-60. Williams added the dagger. After picking up a hard foul on the defensive end that left him on the court, Williams drained a 3-pointer from the left wing and crashed to the floor again. Focused, William converted the four-point play to give West Point with 2:16 to play.
"Trey has a scorer's mentality," Cox said. "He can score in a lot of ways. He hit a couple early and in the second half his teammates recognized he was feeling it. Anytime that ball swung around they found him. His teammates had a lot to do with him hitting that shot. I'm glad he knocked them down for us because in the first half we weren't making anything."
New Hope (girls) 67, West Point 26
Antonia Jethroe (13 points) and D.J. Sanders (10) paced the Lady Trojans (16-2, 3-0) to the victory.
New Hope used its pressure defense to harass West Point and make it difficult for the Green Wave to get off a shot. The press forced countless turnovers and helped New Hope build a 39-8 halftime lead.
"This win is great because we tend not to play well at West Point," New Hope coach Laura Lee Holman said. "This is my fourth year here and we have never had a performance like tonight. It's good to see my girls come in this gym and in this atmosphere and play at the level they did."
Holman credited her players for playing at such a high level on defense, which has been the team's key this season. The Lady Trojans used that strategy to build a 12-0 lead and never looked back.
"That's been our go to play this year," Holman said. "We try to get out and jump on people quick to get the first momentum swing. We try to pressure them from the beginning to get turnovers and score quick."