Westside quickly dashed any thoughts of an early exit Saturday.
The Seminoles, first in the Score Atlanta and Atlanta Journal-Constitution GHSA Class 3A boys rankings and in line for a potential quarterfinal showdown with No. 2 (AJC)/No. 3 (Score Atlanta) Pace Academy, made quick work of first-round opponent Long County Saturday in the first round of the playoffs.
Leading by double-figures less than five minutes in, the Seminoles cruised to a 96-71 victory. Westside (24-3) led 22-7 after one quarter and 46-23 at halftime.
The Seminoles had five players finish in double figures, led by Khavon Moore with 18 points and Trey Foster with 16. Terry Smith paced Long County (16-12) with 21 points, with four Blue Tide players finishing in double figures.
Westside will host Monroe Area in the second round, which will be played either Wednesday or Thursday. Monroe Area beat Sonoraville 76-73 on Saturday on Chandler Gibson's 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Should the Westside-Pace Academy matchup happen, it would pit the top-ranked junior in the state (Moore) against the top-ranked senior in the state (Duke signee Wendell Carter).
Three who mattered
Moore: The Westside junior set the tone early with seven points and five rebounds in the first quarter.
Brendon Anderson: Westside’s junior guard came off the bench early, scoring the Seminoles’ final seven points of the first quarter. He finished with 10.
Smith: Long County’s top scorer put in 12 of his 21 points in the final quarter.
Plan followed: Westside head coach Josh Grube wanted the Seminoles to get off to a quick start, much like they did eight days earlier in their Region 4-3A title game win over Central. The quick start took place, and Westside kept Long County from going on any major scoring runs.
A little dicey: Grube kept his starters in the playing rotation for much of the fourth quarter. That caused a bit of a touch-and-go moment early in the fourth, when Mystikal Wilson, who was in the starting lineup Saturday, limped off with what Grube called an apparent cramp. The training and coaching staff worked on his knee for several minutes, and Wilson was seen walking under his own power by the end of the game. Moore left the game for the final time with 1:56 to go, along with the other starters one at a time down the stretch, receiving applause from Westside fans.
No mulligans at this point: The “one game at a time” approach might be one of the oldest cliches in sports, but there’s meaning behind Grube’s use of that phrase the next few days. Westside didn’t pull away from Kendrick until late in its region tournament semifinal, played the night before a long-anticipated showdown with Central. With Pace Academy potentially awaiting in the quarterfinals, Grube was already preaching on the task at hand — taking on Monroe Area — following Saturday’s victory.
They said it
Grube on the quick start: “That was the key. We wanted to get off to a quick start. We talked about that before the game. That’s two games in a row where we’ve got off to a good start. Long County has a good team. They’re young, they’re going to be really good next year.”
Grube on preparation in the postseason: “I was really proud of our kids. We’re real big on preparation around here, and we really went extensively over their personnel. For the most part, I thought our guys followed the scouting report pretty well, and I think that’s going to be key for us down the stretch.”
Grube on focusing on the game at hand: “We’ve got to take it one game at a time. We’re not worried about what’s ahead, all of this stuff. We know we have to get ready (for Monroe Area), we’ll get film on them and we’ll start getting working on them, I’ll probably start working on them (Sunday). It’s a pretty quick turnaround. But if we continue to shoot the ball and pass the ball, I think we have a chance to do something special. But it all comes down to us playing defense.”
The game time and date for Westside’s second-round game will be set by mutual agreement between the schools. Monroe Area (15-14) is the No. 3 seed from Region 8-3A, located in Walton County.