By Cody Leist
WAVERLY — With key injuries starting to take its toll, West coach Travis Bradford didn’t believe his team was coming into the tournament with the same type of momentum as the Senators had just one year ago.
But despite the recent loss of Michael Davis to a broken hand, No. 11 West had season-highs in points and 3-pointers made in its Division III Southeast Sectional Semifinal at Waverly’s Downtown Gymnasium against No. 6 Lynchburg-Clay. However, the free throw line was not kind enough to the Senators in a 76-72 defeat to the Mustangs.
“I’m so proud of the way our guys played tonight,” Bradford said. “…To come out here and play and to be ready to play against a team that’s really athletic and got some size, I thought our guys played tough inside, giving up a lot of size, but we got in there and battled.”
The Senators connected on 13 of the game’s 24 baskets from the arc. The player for West who was able to feast the most was Michael Hafer, who scored the first 18 of his 27 points in the first nine minutes of the contest.
However, the Mustangs decided on a box-and-one scheme to limit the touches of the Senator senior. With Hafer neutralized for the time being, Bradford was looking for someone to be the secondary scorer.
The request came in the form of Steven Irwin and Christian Martin, who also got into the 3-point shooting contest.
“Guys just stepped up and filled in the gap of losing Michael,” Bradford said. “It was really impressive to see a lot of guys stepping up that haven’t, that have been kind of passive here in these past couple of weeks. To come ready for a tournament game.”
However, they were trying to match 3-pointers with the Mustang pairing of Devin Pierson and Christian Inman, who combined for 1o of their team’s 11 3-pointers. Combined, the two teams were 24-of-46 from deep.
“Most times when you look at the stat sheet of what we had offensively, you’d think that team won,” Bradford said. “When you shoot the shooting percentage that we did and handle the ball with low number of turnovers, you don’t lose games when you usually play games that well offensively.”
Unfortunately, the Senators were unable to convert during trips to the charity stripe. For the game, they were 3-of-10 from the line.
“It’s hard to imagine them to shoot the 3-ball so well and with free throws, you struggle,” Bradford said. “It really comes back to bite you.”
There were 12 lead changes and five ties in the contest, all coming in the first half. West, which found itself down by as much as 11 in the second half, trimmed the margin to a two-point contest twice late but was not able to get that next basket to force a 13th lead change.
“They took our best punch, that’s for sure, and they’re moving on so you have to give them credit as well,” Bradford said.
Austin Bricker had 11 rebounds to add to his four points while Steven Irwin and Christian Martin had 20 points and 12 points, respectively, in the loss. Friday night will mark the unusual end to the high school careers of Hafer, Bricker, Martin, Dylan Koons and Steve Matthews as the Senators travel to South Webster for an SOC II makeup game, knowing their tenure at West ends after the game.
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 294, or on Twitter @CodyLeist.
West 20 14 18 20 — 72
Lynchburg-Clay 18 17 24 17 — 76
West — Koons 4-1-9, Irwin 8-1-20, Bricker 2-0-4, Martin 4-0-12, Hafer 10-1-27, Totals 28-3-72.
Lynchburg-Clay —Waits 1-5-8, Blankenship 0-4-4, R. Inman 11-0-22, Pierson 10-4-30, C. Inman 4-0-12, Totals 26-13-76.
3-Point Goals — West 13 (Hafer 6, Martin 4, Irwin 3); Lynchburg-Clay 11 (Pierson 6, C. Inman 4, Waits).
Records — West 9-13; Lynchburg-Clay 17-5.