WAVERLY — By the time the Portsmouth West boys basketball team plays its next scheduled game, it will have been an astounding 34 days since its last loss… and said streak may extend well beyond that.
By going on a 6-1 run in the game’s final 20 seconds, the visiting Senators — on Friday night and in stunning fashion at Waverly’s Downtown Arena — overcame a four-point deficit to defeat the Waverly Tigers 58-57 in boys Southern Ohio Conference Division II play.
Each of West’s six points in the final third of the last minute of the last quarter came via the charity stripe, as senior Luke Howard and juniors Noah Coleman and Jesse Dixon each went 2-for-2 — giving the Senators a one-point cushion with 3.3 seconds left and thus forcing the Tigers to unsuccessfully go the length of the court in the final seconds.
Coleman’s and Dixon’s free throws were earned after the Tigers were called for fouls on the floor, while Howard’s came with 19 seconds left — after Waverly coach Travis Robertson was assessed a technical foul.
In a game of runs and one that West led 28-27 at halftime, it was the Senators which ultimately made the game’s final run in the waning seconds for their eighth consecutive win — all since Dec. 18.
“We’ve struggled at the free-throw line all year, it’s something we’ve really started emphasizing in practice. Try to simulate in-game experience as much as possible,” West coach Caleb McClanahan said, after the win. “Noah Coleman, Jesse Dixon, Luke Howard — those are some big, big shots.”
The win elevated West to 9-3 and 7-3 in SOC II play, all in McClanahan’s first year in leading the Senators’ ship.
For historical purposes, it’s West’s first win over Waverly since Dec. 16, 2014 — a 61-40 win over the Tigers at ‘The Rock’.
“To come in here and do that, this is so huge for this program. When we first came here, we talked about this. But until you do it, it’s just working toward that,” McClanahan said. “I thought our guys fought and fought, fought through adversity.”
In the two teams’ first meeting of the season at West — also both teams’ season opener — it was the Tigers’ early pressure that helped them race out to a 75-44 win.
In Friday’s meeting, it was the Senators’ defense that helped them stay in the game — as they unofficially forced 16 Waverly turnovers and committed just 17 themselves.
West also won the battle on the glass, pulling in 32 boards to the Tigers’ 27.
Whereas Waverly won the first and third quarters by a combined 31-17, West made up the difference with its defense in the second and fourth — outscoring the Tigers 41-26 in those periods.
West held Waverly to just two double figure scorers — junior Trey Robertson who had 14 and senior Zeke Brown who scored 13.
“That’s where we hang our hat. I told our kids if we keep our turnovers down and hold them in the 50s, we’ll at least give ourselves a chance,” McClanahan said. “Our defense has been holding other teams in the 30s, but you’re not going to hold Waverly, teams like this down that much.”
Three Senators scored in double figures in the win, led by Dixon’s game-high 16 points.
Dixon and senior Rodney Moore, the duo which led West in scoring, scored each of their combined 29 points after the first quarter.
Luke Howard added 10 and Noah Coleman nine, each going three-of-four from the foul line in the fourth.
“To see kids step up in big moments, that’s what it’s all about. The atmosphere was awesome — it actually felt like a real high school basketball game. Fans, coaches, benches were all into it.”
The Senators will go for their ninth-straight win in another game where they’ll look for a road victory over one of the SOC II’s top teams.
West will travel to Wheelersburg on Friday (Jan. 22) — hoping to end the Pirates’ current 19-game winning streak in league play.
“We’ve got a week to prepare for another huge game,” McClanahan said. “They (Wheelersburg) came into our place and beat on us just like Waverly did, now we’ve got to get focused and get ready for Wheelersburg.”
* * *
West 7 21 10 20 — 58
Waverly 15 12 16 14 — 57
PORTSMOUTH WEST 58 (9-3, 7-3 SOC II)
Ryan Sissel 0 0-2 0, Luke Howard 2 5-6 10, Jesse Dixon 3 9-15 16, Marion Phillips 2 2-3 6, Steven Sadler 0 0-0 0, Noah Coleman 3 3-4 9, Luke Bradford 2 0-0 4, Jacob Davis 0 0-2 0, Rodney Moore 5 3-3 13; TOTALS 17 22-35 58; Three-point field goals: 2 (Luke Howard and Jesse Dixon 1 apiece)
WAVERLY 57 (6-2, 4-2 SOC II)
Mark Stulley 1 6-9 9, Gage Wheeler 2 1-4 6, Trey Robertson 4 4-6 14, Will Futhey 4 1-5 9, Zeke Brown 6 1-3 13, Phoenix Wolf 3 0-1 6, Eli Crabtree 0 0-0 0; TOTALS 20 13-28 57; Three-point field goals: 4 (Robertson 2, Gage Wheeler and Mark Stulley 1 apiece)
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved