After a very challenging Friday night league-win over Notre Dame, the Western Indians returned to their home court Saturday afternoon and used an early lead to help themselves record a 49-38 victory over the visiting Eastern Eagles in a Pike County clash.
“We’re a young team as far as experience is concerned. Even (Colton) Montgomery and (Riley) Beekman, who are seniors, didn’t play a ton of minutes last year,” said Western coach Doug Williams.
“I was happy with the way we started. It was a tough game last night (Feb. 12) at Notre Dame. We played six or seven guys a lot of minutes. So we were actually worried about how we were going to come out in this game. I was happy with the way we came out. Some of that had to do with Eastern missing shots early. I was happy with the way we started, and I was displeased with the rest of the game, because I felt like the guys put it on cruise control.”
Eastern gained the initial lead, and its only lead, when Jake Tribby was fouled on the opening possession and hit the second of two free throw attempts to make it 1-0. The rest of the scoring in the quarter belonged to Western. Kolten Miller had Western’s first bucket, beginning a run of 17 unanswered points over the opening quarter. Noah Whitt, Riley Beekman and Reed Brewster joined the scoring for the Indians. Defensively, Miller blocked one shot and Beekman blocked two more, as the Eagles went 0-of-12 from the floor. Heading to the second quarter, Western was up 17-1.
The Eagles were able to get some shots to fall in the second quarter, as Dillion Mattox and Lance Barnett each scored around Western’s offense, which included a free throw from Gavin Myers and a trifecta from Sean Kerns. The Indians opened their largest lead of 19 points with an old-fashioned three-point play from Whitt, 24-5. Then the Eagles closed the half with a 7-2 run, using a bucket and two free throws from Mattox, along with a three-ball from Brennen Slusher to cut the lead to 26-12. Western’s basket during that stretch came from Beekman.
“We dig ourselves into situations. We went to a 2-3 zone in the second half. They missed some shots that led to rebounds and we limited to one try,” said Eastern coach Lakiem Lockery. “We couldn’t stand in front of them, defend them and guard them. We should be able to do that with the competition we play.”
That defensive switch to a 2-3 zone allowed the Eagles to work on a comeback in the second half. Western’s Colton Montgomery dialed long distance, hitting the initial three-pointer to start the scoring in the third quarter. Then the Eagles made a run, cutting the Indian lead down to single digits.
That 8-0 run started with a bucket in the paint from Tribby, followed by another basket from Mattox, a three-pointer from Neil Leist, and then a free throw from Mattox, which cut the advantage to 29-20. Whitt broke Western’s drought, briefly putting the Indians ahead by double digits again. Then Leist hit two more triples in the final 2:30 to get the lead down to 31-26.
“Eastern went 2-3 zone in the second half and that made us stagnant a little bit. Instead of attacking the 2-3 zone, we moved the ball around and then shot flat-footed threes,” said Williams. When they (the threes) don’t go in, that gives them a chance to score. Eastern wanted it to be low. They want a low-scoring game and we wanted it to be the opposite.”
Leist pulled his team within three to start the fourth, drawing a foul and sinking both of his shots, 31-28. Then Miller was fouled on a three-point try, sinking all of his free throws to start a quick 8-0 burst by the Indians. Miller hit on the three-ball on Western’s next possession before Montgomery capped the run with a basket, 39-28.
Eastern whittled the advantage back down to five with a 8-2 run, beginning again with Leist getting to the line and sinking two more shots. Then Mattox and Abe McBee added buckets around a Western basket from Miller. Mattox capped the run with two final free throws, cutting the lead to 41-36 with about 3:30 to play. Miller responded with Western’s final field goal with just over three minutes left. Leist got to the line on Eastern’s ensuing possession, cutting the lead to five for a final time, 43-38.
“When we share the ball, we are hard to guard. We don’t have a whole lot of size. Our offense is predicated on moving,” said Williams. “So if we have to guard their bigs at one end, they will have to guard our guards at the other end. When we share the ball and get it moving, it makes it hard for bigger guys to guard. When we take one dribble and shoot it, we play into their hands.”
The final two minutes saw the Indians work the clock down and finish the win on the line, going 6-for-9. Whitt was 1-for-2, while Miller was 5-for-7. That effort allowed the Indians to put the 49-38 win away.
“Why do we play the games when we know the tournament draw and we can’t win the league title? We work on game situations. We stalled the ball for almost a minute and a half when we needed to do so,” said Williams.
“I was proud at the end for the way we pulled it out. I would like us to make more free throws, or it would have been over sooner.”
For Western, Miller led the scoring charge with 21 points, followed by Whitt with 12 points. Eastern was led by Leist with 15 points, followed by Mattox with 13.
Shooting-wise from the floor, Western had the upper hand, connecting on 13-of-25 from two-point range and 4-of-15 from three-point land, combining for a total of 17-of-40. The Eagles hit 7-of-25 tries from two-point range and 4-of-20 from outside for a combined total of 11-of-40. On the line, the Eagles did better than the Indians. Eastern hit 12-of-14 from the charity stripe, while Western connected on 11-of-16. Western had 12 turnovers, while Eastern had 11.
EHS — 1 11 14 12 — 38
WHS — 17 9 5 18 — 49
EASTERN (38) — Abe McBee 1 0 0-0 2, Isaac Richardson 0 0 0-0 0, Neil Leist 0 3 6-6 15, Brennen Slusher 0 1 0-0 3, Jake Tribby 1 0 1-2 3, Dillion Mattox 4 0 5-6 13, Lance Barnett 1 0 0-0 2, Trenten Brown 0 0 0-0 0, TOTALS 7 4 12-14 38.
WESTERN (49) — Reed Brewster 0 1 0-0 3, Kolten Miller 5 1 8-10 21, Colton Montgomery 1 1 0-0 5, Noah Whitt 5 0 2-4 12, Riley Beekman 2 0 0-0 4, Sean Kerns 0 1 0-0 3, Gavin Myers 0 0 1-2 1, TOTALS 13 4 11-16 49.
Friday, Feb. 12 @ Notre Dame
In a battle from start to finish, the Western Indians recorded a 56-52 win at Notre Dame Friday evening, putting the victory away on the foul line.
Notre Dame won the opening quarter by one, 11-10, before the Indians did the same in the second, outscoring the Titans 17-16 to create a 27-27 tie at the break. For Western, Kolten Miller did the bulk of the scoring, producing 16 of his 25 in those first two quarters. Other scoring contributors for the Indians included Noah Whitt with six of his seven, Reed Brewster with a trifecta, and Colton Montgomery with a bucket.
The Titans won the third quarter, 14-13, moving ahead 41-40. Western’s attack was led by Montgomery, who scored eight of the 13. Miller added four more points, while Gavin Myers split a pair of free throws.
In the final quarter, the Indians sealed their victory on the line by hitting 11-of-14 free throws. Montgomery was a perfect 4-for-4, while Brewster and Miller each went 3-for-4, and Noah Whitt was 1-for-2. Miller had an additional bucket, while Riley Beekman connected on a trifecta. When the final buzzer sounded, Western had won 56-52.
WHS — 10 17 13 16 — 56
NDHS — 11 16 14 11 — 52
WESTERN (56) — Reed Brewster 0 1 3-4 6, Kolten Miller 3 4 7-10 25, Dalton Risner 0 0 0-1 0, Colton Montgomery 1 2 6-6 14, Noah Whitt 3 0 1-2 7, Riley Beekman 0 1 0-0 3, Gavin Myers 0 0 1-2 1, Zach Teed 0 0 0-0 0, TOTALS 7 8 18-25 56.
NOTRE DAME (52) — Carter Campbell 2 0 1-5 5, Jermaine Powell 1 0 0-0 2, Caleb Nichols 1 1 5-5 10, Dominic Sparks 1 0 2-2 4, Jackson Clark 0 0 0-0 0, Dylan Seison 2 0 0-0 4, Johnathan Strickland 4 4 7-7 27, Ethan Kammer 0 0 0-0 0, TOTALS 11 5 15-19 52.