CAMPBELLSBURG, Ind. — West Washington High School is by no means considered large. Fewer than 500 students are enrolled at the Campbellsburg school, and less than 600 people call the surrounding area — made up of mostly cornfields — home.
Thus, it’s no surprise West Washington lists just eight players on its varsity basketball roster and rotates only six, but similar to other athletic programs at the small, rural school, the Senators are anything but slight.
Behind a concerted effort from the aforementioned six, all seniors, Class 1A No. 9 West Washington (12-3) outlasted visiting 3A North Harrison (8-7) 85-80 in double-overtime Friday night. Two veterans in particular, Hunter Sanford and Michael Sizemore, accounted for 23 of the Senators’ 26 points in the overtime periods. Sanford netted 26 of his game-high 30 points after halftime. Sizemore finished with 25.
The win is in many ways descriptive of West Washington’s 2016-17 campaign. The Senators, lacking depth, more than make up for it with talent — made possible by way of experience and chemistry.
“Those six seniors, they’ve played a lot of basketball together,” West Washington coach Sean Smith said. “They find a way to win.”
Smith’s core six looked the part. North Harrison had chances to win the game in regulation and in the waning moments of the first overtime, but the Senators wouldn’t cave in. Sanford blocked a layup attempt to end the fourth quarter, and with the score knotted at 80-80 late in the second overtime, West Washington got a stop and went 4-for-4 from the free-throw line after Jackson Byrne nailed the go-ahead free throw with 32.1 seconds left.
Byrne finished with 10 points and five rebounds, and fellow seniors Peyton Walker and Noah Green added 12 and eight points, respectively.
“It was just a dogfight to the end,” Smith said. “Neither team wanted to give up and go home with a loss. I think Hunter really stepped up his game in the second half, and that probably was a turning point for us because he struggled early in the game with some things mentally. I’m really proud of him for working through it. … That’s what these kids do — they find a way to win.”
North Harrison led 57-56 with 1:08 left in regulation, but Sanford answered with a 3-point play, and despite an empty trip to the free-throw line, the 6-foot-5 senior came up with the key rejection at the buzzer. Sanford, who missed his first three shots, said the team’s unselfishness allows it to be successful.
“(The chemistry) is great,” Sanford said. “We’re all best friends. We’re together through everything.”
Smith’s senior-laden Senators have won eight of their past nine games ahead of Saturday’s meeting at New Washington (10-7). With the win Friday, the 11-year coach, in his third at West Washington, moved to 6-0 at home this season on Ron Smith Court, named after Sean’s father, a former Senator standout and athletic director.
Sean said the community’s sense of togetherness — much like his team’s — is never in question.
“The community here, it’s really supportive,” Smith said. “Everybody gets behind us and supports us. Like tonight, the fans were spectacular. That made a big difference for us. … It’s a real tight-knit community. I’m just really thankful for the opportunity to coach here.”
West Washington 85, North Harrison 80, 2OT
Senators (12-3): Hunter Sanford 30p, 7r, 2a; Michael Sizemore 25p, 7r, 3a; Jackson Byrne 10p, 5r; Peyton Walker 12p; Noah Green 8p; Bryce Farmer 2a; 2r
Cougars (8-7): Jake Book 24p, 6r, 3a; Max Flock 20p, 5r; Skyler Wetzel 19p; Jake Troxell 6p, 6r; Quin Keiser 4p, 3r; Eli Gutknecht 3p; Jake Harley 2p; Trevor Haub 2p