Saturday night on the west side was special in a variety of ways.
First, the peewee basketball teams and cheerleaders were honored prior to the game between Portsmouth West and Huntington Ross.
Then, the home team Senators scored a 54-45 victory over the visiting Huntsmen.
Early on though, points were hard to come by. So hard in fact that West head coach Bill Hafer felt maybe his peewee kids could’ve given his group a run for their money in the opening few minutes.
“Why does it always have to be this hard,” Hafer asked. “No matter who we play, if our peewee team would have come out here tonight I think we would have done the same thing.”
Neither side would score for the first four minutes of the game, until finally the Senators got on the board when Brandon Moore cut to the rim for a running layup.
That Moore score started a 7-0 West run, finished off by a Blaine Weaver three with 2:20 to play in the first.
Huntington Ross got five points to answer from their star player Elijah McCloskey, but the Huntsmen trailed 8-5 after one.
McCloskey had a game high 22-points and was active in every quarter for Huntington Ross. As a result, he drew fresh faces and fresh legs from defenders throughout the contest.
“I heard the night before he had 32, and he had five in the first quarter so I knew we were going to be in for a long night,” Hafer said. “We tried to throw as many fresh guys as we could at him, especially since we played last night and our legs were a little sore.”
“Overall, it wasn’t bad. He got loose a few times, but he’s just a good player so it’s tough.”
In the second, scoring was still a bit hard to come by for both sides.
The Huntsmen got going a bit to start the quarter, and took a 14-10 lead with 5:13 before the half after Seth Beeler hit a triple. Beeler had 10 points on the night for Huntington Ross.
Both teams went back and forth in the scoring column, but a 6-0 scoring run late in the quarter sparked by Jordan Frasure and LT Maynard gave the Senators a 22-20 halftime edge.
West was in the lead on the scoreboard, but they knew things had to change in the second half if they were going to come out on top.
A part of those halftime adjustments was to feature Frasure more, and the senior stepped up big time for the Senators.
“We started off rough, we weren’t playing very well,” Frasure said. “Our defense was lackadaisical, and we weren’t making shots. Coach just sat us down and told us start playing, and at halftime we just came out with some more intensity and shots started falling.”
Frasure finished with a game-high 19 points for West, and was a key component in a big second half for the Senators.
His partner in crime Maynard was effective in the scoring department and at running the floor for West as well, finishing with 14 points.
Maynard was running and gunning early in the third, giving the Senators a 26-22 lead on a quick drive to the basket for a score with 4:40 to play.
McCloskey answered back with a score, which caught the eyes of Maynard a little bit.
“It seemed like McCloskey started busting shots on some of our good defenders,” Maynard said. “I just stepped up and said give him to me, I don’t know how much he scored in the second half but I tried to shut him down as much as possible.”
Late in the quarter, Frasure took over for West. In the final 2:40, Frasure scored all seven of the Senators points, including a buzzer beating three-pointer as the third quarter clock expired from the left corner.
“That’s my shot,” Frasure said. “I like shooting from the corner for sure, and I was feeling it.”
Maynard knew who he was going to as soon as he brought the ball across the timeline.
“He was the hot man,” Maynard said. “I was looking for him the whole time coming down, I knew he was going to bust it … that corner right there is called Frasure Island.”
Frasure’s emergence was all a part of a second half game plan for West that was centered around feeding the senior inside the paint.
“We tried to feature Frasure a little more inside,” Hafer said. “I gave him a nice little talking to at halftime, and we kind of got readjusted and refocused and I wanted us to run a few more set plays for him.”
“He kind of gets us going when we go inside and kick it out. LT and Frasure is kind of what gets us going and we needed both of them to be clicking at the same time. Luckily, tonight they were.”
As a result, the Senators went into the fourth quarter with a 35-29 lead.
Right on cue on the first play of the final frame was Frasure again, busting another one of those three-pointers to stretch the lead to 38-29.
McCloskey and the Huntsmen put forth a stingy effort to play out the game, but clutch free throws from Dylan Bradford were the difference down the stretch.
Bradford scored 10 points overall, and was automatic at the charity stripe.
“He went through a stretch there in the season where he wasn’t hitting many of them,” Hafer said. “He’s been working really hard, and I think he was 8-for-8 and finished the game out for us. If we didn’t make those free throws in the end, it could have got really interesting.”
West was able to close out the game with a 54-45 victory. Huntington Ross cut the lead to 50-45 with 29.5 seconds left, but couldn’t capitalize with the ball in their hands late.
In the final week of the regular season, the Senators will have three tough games. On Tuesday, West faces Manchester. Then, during the weekend, the Senators take on Waverly on Friday and West Union on Saturday.
West will have a tall task, as it looks like they could be playing their first tournament game the following Monday.
“We had some cancellations and had to make up some games, and it’s not ideal,” Hafer said. “There’s a good chance we’re going to play Saturday and then turn around and play on that Monday, so it’s a short turnaround.”
If key players can continue their scoring abilities for the Senators, West could make a tournament run to close out the 2017-18 campaign.