WESTMORELAND The Westmoreland High School boys basketball team didn’t sit in a favorable position with three minutes remaining in Friday evening’s district contest with visiting Greenbrier.
However, the Eagles managed to erase a six-point deficit and took control in overtime for a 55-49 victory over visiting Greenbrier.
Westmoreland (8-4) remained unbeaten in District 9-AA play and won its fifth consecutive game.
“Coming into the year, we knew had chemistry,” Eagle senior guard Dalton Leath said. “This group has been together a long time.
“I feel like we have more basketball players this year. Brad (Evans, a graduate from last season’s squad) is a good athlete, and Michael (Evans, another 2015 graduate) is a good athlete. Everybody has been here since summer this season. We’re working with guys we’ve had since the summer.”
Those four district contests have all been decided by 11 points or fewer, including one-point victory over perennial power Cheatham County.
“Us knocking off Cheatham was a shock to some people,” Leath said. “Cheatham County has been the upper dog, the bigger team. They had (standouts Jordan) Darden and (Jake) Saunders (two seasons ago). I’m not going to say teams were scared of them, but you knew you had a lot to deal with. I don’t think anybody is really scared of us.
“Everybody is pretty even right now. We have to bring our game every night. If we do that, we’ll be okay. We’ll be able to compete.”
Bobcat junior guard Austin Richardson made his fourth and final 3-pointer with 3:26 remaining, creating a 42-36 score. However, he picked up his fifth foul seconds later, fouling out with a team-high 16 points.
It was another 3-pointer that helped quickly thrust Westmoreland back into the contest as Leath tossed in one from the top of the key with two minutes remaining as he was fouled. He made the ensuing free throw to complete the four-point play.
Then, in the final minute, junior teammate Colton Pippen and Leath made one free throw each, sending the contest to overtime.
“We didn’t make foul shot like we needed to make down the stretch,” Eagle head coach Jason Graves – whose squad connected on 25 of 40 at the free-throw line – said. “That’s something you need to do to win close ballgames, but we didn’t have the turnovers and got stops on defense. Greenbrier was in foul trouble, and we were able to take advantage of that.
“We won a ballgame when we probably should have lost. That shows a lot of heart and character to find a way to win when it’s not your best night.”
Westmoreland took its first lead when senior guard Caleb Graves drove along the baseline and converted a layin with 2:20 left. His ensuing free throw placed the Eagles in front to stay.
The Bobcats had four players to foul out, and Leath and Caleb Graves made free throws over the final 80 seconds to seal the win.
Greenbrier (2-9 overall, 0-3 in District 9-AA) scored the game’s first seven points and led by as many as nine points on three different occasions in the first half, lastly on junior Will Hodges’ baseline jump shot with 2:14 remaining in the half.
Caleb Graves made two free throws with two seconds remaining in the half, creating a 20-13 halftime score.
“We were going too fast offensively and not fast enough defensively,” Jason Graves said. “That needs to swap. You need to play hard on defense and be patient on offense. We just didn’t make shots and kept shooting them.”
Leath added, “We weren’t all on the same page. I have to slow down. When one guy is not on the same page, it slows everybody down. We’ve shot the ball better. Colton is big for us right now. We have to get him the ball.”
Leath finished with a game-high 21 points, and Caleb Graves and Pippen scored 12 and 11 points, respectively.
“Coach said in the locker room that, right now, we have a target on our back,” Leath said. “We have to take that into consideration. We have to push harder, because we know other teams are going to push harder.
“We can’t peak. We have to peak at tournament time. We just have to work harder and keep doing what we’re doing.”
Westmoreland will be playing in Macon County High’s Nera White Invitational, facing Red Boiling Springs at 5 p.m. on Dec. 28.
Reach Craig Harris at email@example.com or at 615-575-7138. Follow him on Twitter @HarrisGNESports.
GREENBRIER (49) – Austin Richardson 16, Austin Merrill 8, Jordan Perdue 8, Michael Parker 5, C.J. Bryant 3, Andrew Cline 3, Jace Derseweh 2, Will Hodges 2, Bailey Young 2.
WESTMORELAND (55) – Dalton Leath 21, Caleb Graves 12, Colton Pippen 11, Zeke Webb 6, Lucas Garrison 3, Landon Graves 2.
Half: 20-13, Greenbrier. End of regulation: 44-44. Three-point goals: Greenbrier 4 (Richardson 4), Westmoreland 3 (C. Graves 1, Leath 1, Webb 1). Records: Greenbrier 2-9 overall, 0-3 in 9-AA; Westmoreland 8-4, 4-0.