ALBANY -- Westover head coach Dallis Smith felt an upset brewing before Tuesday's Region 1-AAA opener at home against Crisp County.
His players were too relaxed and the crowd hadn't shown up in force for the tip-off, Smith felt.
Then the Patriots stormed off on a 14-0 run in the first quarter and those fears were only an afterthought as Westover routed the Cougars, 88-62, to improve to 5-0 and open Region 1-AAA play with a win.
"We just have to have a killer instinct and put them away early," senior point guard Shevren Keaton said. "A team like Crisp can stick around with you."
Crisp had, in fact, come back from a 23-point deficit in coach Robert Cotton Jr.'s return to Americus-Sumter last weekend to win by 18, so it certainly was possible.
"I just reminded them that the first few minutes (of the second half) were crucial," Smith said, after holding a similar 46-22 lead at halftime.
But not in the Patriots' house, where they lost just one game last season, and not against this Westover team that continues to play suffocating defense and spread the wealth.
Keaton scored a season-high 20 points and was one of five Patriots to finish in double figures.
"We all got touches and everybody was in (Tuesday)," said the senior guard, who averages the most minutes on the Patriots' team. "We condition a lot, so I'm ready to stay in for 32 minutes."
Keaton didn't need to play more than 20 minutes Tuesday after the Patriots used two 14-0 runs in the first half and then added a 10-2 run to open the third quarter to lead by as many as 30.
Westover held Crisp's leading scorer Johntavious Carter, who put 30 on the Patriots last season, to just 10 points. Tommy Sanders led the Cougars (2-3, 0-1 Region 1-AAA) with 20 points, while Marshall Taylor added 10.
"If you can come play hard on the defensive end, you can play for me because that's where it starts," Smith said.
Westover got 14 points and six rebounds from Onochie Ochie, while Chris Wheeler added 10 points and five boards. Anthony Ball and Malcolm Sapp each scored 11 for Westover, who'll travel to Dougherty High on Friday for another region matchup. Crisp visits Monroe on Friday.
WESTOVER GIRLS 57, CRISP COUNTY 50:
The Lady Patriots played one of their best halves of the early season in the first half Tuesday and led Crisp County by as many as 23 points in the third quarter.
Then it all fell apart for Westover in the final quarter as the Lady Cougars rallied late to cut the Lady Patriots' lead to three (53-50) with 42 seconds to play.
Sophomore Dyteisha Dunson hit two free throws and Ieshia Young added a bucket in the final 30 seconds to preserve a 57-50 win, but the victory was too close for comfort for head coach Lewis Smith.
"It was just a matter of time before (Crisp) was going to get a run going," Smith said of the Lady Cougars' five senior starters, who couldn't buy a basket in the first half. "Some of the things we did added fuel to their run."
Westover (4-1, 1-0 Region 1-AAA), which started just one senior, led, 32-12, at halftime after going on a 15-0 run in the first half before Crisp's Monique Grant and Onicea Wood got hot in the second half. Grant scored 17 of her game-high 21 points in the final two quarters, while Wood scored all 16 of her points in the second half.
Dunson, who is averaging 18 points a game, led Westover with 16 points and added five rebounds and three steals. Young had 14 points, while Cessily Colwell chipped in with 10. Latisha Williams scored six to go along with 10 rebounds and two blocks.
Westover was playing without senior center Danielle Glover, who is visiting the Harvard campus this week.