It appeared the visiting Huntingtown Hurricanes had the game right where they needed to upset the Westlake Wolverines Wednesday.
Huntingtown held a 12-point lead with a little over two minutes left in the first half while keeping the tempo to its preferred controlled pace against the more up-and-down-oriented Wolverines.
Following a timeout, Westlake resorted to its more gambling style of full-court pressing defense, complete with traps, and that triggered the Wolverines to 10 straight points to conclude the half.
And Westlake picked up from there in the second half when it continued a 25-4 run, easily overcoming a two-point deficit at intermission, and holding as much as a nine-point lead with three minutes left in the third quarter.
Anytime Huntingtown got close down the stretch, Westlake responded, usually with one of its 20 offensive rebounds that led to a bucket.
Westlake’s 69-63 victory was thus primarily the product of dominating the boards to the tune of 39-23, 20-4 on the offensive end, as the Wolverines improved to 10-3 overall, 3-0 in Southern Maryland Athletic Conference action.
“A lot of people asked me today if Huntingtown was good?, was it going to be a good game?, and I was, like, ‘Yeah, they beat Stone. Stone beat us,’” said Westlake senior point guard Charles Clark, who finished with a team-high 15 points including back-to-back clutch three-pointers in the final 3 minutes 40 seconds when the Hurricanes had gotten as close as 56-54. “Just ending out the half good and then started the third quarter good was real key to a good victory. [When I hit those threes], I think it made them come out of [their preferred] zone and made them go man [defense]. And that’s what we wanted, to be able to run our spread offense and get the ball moving.
“It’s a little bit harder [to run our offense] when they just stand there [in zone defense].”
Though Westlake’s aggressive full-court defense changed the complexion of the contest in the third by forcing 10 turnovers that led to easy transition buckets, the Wolverines credited the victory to their determination on the offensive glass.
Four times in the final quarter, Westlake amassed putbacks via offensive rebounding. Each time, Huntingtown (6-7, 1-3) trailed by no more than six points.
Two of the offensive putbacks came on the highlight variety as Chris Craft (11 points) and Desi Wiseman (6 points) skied over Huntingtown would-be rebounders to collect missed shots off the rim by teammates and quickly put them in the hoop before landing.
Westlake’s final putback of the fourth applied the biggest dagger to Huntingtown as Gabriel Jarvis cleaned up a missed shot in transition by a teammate, pushing the Wolverines’ lead to 64-56 with 2:19 left.
Jarvis, who played an instrumental role in Westlake’s surge to close the first half with six straight points during a 15-second span, finished with 11 points and was one of four Wolverines in double figures offensively, as the team boasted a balanced attack.
Phillip Jackson also registered 11 points for Westlake. Teammate Michael Canady just missed double figures with nine points.
“Our No. 1 goal was to get rebounds basically,” Jarvis said. “Mostly offensive rebounding and we kept the tempo up [were the keys to this win]. We needed [the offensive rebounds]. Mostly in practice, what we do is boxing out. That’s what really helped us [tonight].”
Clark echoed, “That’s what we work on practice. I think we spend about 45 minutes on — just rebounding and boxing out. Boxing out makes it easier for the next man [on your team] to come get the rebound. As long as you get low and get them out of the way, [you can box it].”
Squandered in the defeat were big scoring efforts from Huntingtown’s Trey Hawkins and Marcus Sims. Hawkins posted a game-high 22 points, while Sims scored 15.
Despite seeing his team lose just about all of its 12-point lead prior to halftime, Huntingtown head coach Vashawne Gross fully attributed the shortcoming to his team’s lack of production on the defensive glass.
“We absolutely beat ourselves tonight,” Gross said. “We didn’t box out. If you don’t box out, you’re not going to win. We gave up too many offensive rebounds and too many turnovers. Normally, we do a better job of protecting the ball. We had three opportunities to cut it in a four-point game, and they get offensive rebounds each time. We limit their offensive rebounds, we walk away with a win. It would’ve been a big win for us.
“In the fourth quarter, we didn’t do a good job of boxing out. We played as well as we’ve played all year tonight. We just had that mental lapse one or two times [mostly in rebounding].”
Westlake head coach Ed Mouton added, “That’s probably our best offensive-rebounding game. That was key tonight — the defense and offensive rebounding. Because we’re so small and not [the most] athletic, we practice rebounding 30 minutes a day. We have to.”