One way or another, close finishes keep finding the Westside Seminoles. Fortunately for Westside, it has come out on the winning end of those games as of late, with the Seminoles winning their past four games.
Each victory has come by six points or fewer, and Saturday’s 59-58 nailbiter over Rutland was the Seminoles’ second one-point victory in as many days.
“I know we’ve learned from these situations, but still, as a coach you’d like to be up by four or five toward the end of the game and put those games away,” Westside head coach Josh Grube said. “You’ve got to give credit to Rutland; they were making plays.”
Westside led by no more than five points the entire second half and withstood a late Rutland comeback helped by Ronnie Mays converting 3-of-4 free throws in the final 1:07, putting the game away.
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The Seminoles led 59-55 with eight seconds to go, a two-possession lead that turned out to be critical when the Hurricanes’ Tylik Evans hit a 3-pointer as time ran out, bringing the Hurricanes one point shy of the Seminoles.
“We know every time we play Rutland, it’s a close game. Last year we beat them by two in overtime; they beat us by one,” Grube said. “The first time we played them this year we beat them by one and (Saturday) we beat them by one.”
Rutland was able to stay close in the second half and rally from a double-digit first half deficit thanks to its backcourt tandem of guards Evans and Jaylon Tyson, which combined to score 38 of Rutland’s points.
“Our two guards are small, but they get after it. We’ve been trying to play with them, and that’s where we’ve been having problems,” Rutland head coach Ron Christian said. “Our bigs were playing early, and now it seems like we’re having to regroup with our big guys on the inside because we’re so small.”
A 6-2 second-quarter scoring stretch capped by a shot by Evans cut the Westside lead to 27-24, and a pair of free throws by Evans just before halftime pulled the Hurricanes just three points down, 31-28 after two quarters.
Held without a 3-pointer the entire game, Westside did its damage in the paint, either grabbing loose balls or drawing offensive fouls, which the Seminoles converted into points. Reaping the greatest benefit was Mays, getting 10 of his 21 points at the foul line.
But Rutland still had a chance, pulling within a point with 26 seconds to go after a 3-pointer by Evans. The Hurricanes nearly got the ball back on Westside’s next possession, but the Seminoles were able to call timeout before losing the ball, preventing a costly turnover. A missed shot by Evans followed, and Mays sunk the late free throw to make Westside’s lead two possessions.
“I’ve got to give my guys credit,” Grube said. “It wasn’t going great for us at all times, but we found a way to get the job done. When it all comes down to it, it’s about winning and losing.”
On the heels of losing two of their past three games, Westside’s girls shook up their starting lineup, inserting sophomore Kiera Armstrong and freshman Daisha Terry into the playing rotation. The strategy paid off, with Terry scoring five fourth quarter points, including a free-throw with 50 seconds to play that was just enough to give the Seminoles a 33-32 win.
Terry’s shot, which followed an inside shot by Armstrong, put Westside ahead 33-30 with 50 seconds to play. Rutland pulled within a point with 35 seconds to go on a Katelyn Grandison lay-up but got no closer, falling short when an Adrianna Brown jumper from inside the paint missed at the buzzer.
Westside trailed 18-11 but go back into it with a pair of third quarter 3-pointers from Braxtyn Talton, cutting the Rutland advantage to 22-17. The Lady Seminoles pulled closer by the end of the third quarter, down 23-21.
Talton led Westside with 12 points and Brown’s 16 led Rutland.