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Too close for comfort: Westover boys 75, Woodland 67

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- Take the win, and burn the tape.

That was the feeling after Westover beat Woodland, 75-67, in the opening round of the Class AAA state tournament Friday night at Westover.

"Well, the bad one is out of the way,'' Westover coach Dallis Smith said. "We won and we're moving on to the next one.''

Enough said.

That's the bottom line to this opening-night win, which had a stretch run no one wanted to see at Westover. The No. 1 seeded Patriots appeared ready to romp their way right into the next round, and were beating the Wolfpack by 23 points when all the air slipped out of the balloon.

It all went awry at the six-minute mark.

Malcolm Sapp had just hit his second 3 of the night to lift Westover to a 70-47 lead and it appeared the Patriots, who were never in danger, might win by as much as 30.

But Woodland (17-12) found new life -- and all but threatened to end Westover's season. The Wolfpack, the fourth seed from Region 4-AAA, outscored Westover 20-5 over the final six minutes, and Westover's only points came from the free throw line.

"We started watching the clock instead of playing,'' Smith said. "We weren't playing defense. They thought it was over. There's no way you let a team get back in the game like that.''

Smith said he delivered the same message to his players afterward.

"I got on them,'' Smith said. "Because you can't do that -- you can't do that in the state playoffs. You do that and you'll be sitting at home.''

Westover (22-4) next faces Kendrick (21-8), which rolled by Baldwin, 90-69, Friday to advance to the second round. Kendrick finished second in Region 2-AAA behind LaGrange, the state's top-ranked team. Kendrick lost to LaGrange (28-0) by only eight points (78-70) in the region final last week.

The Patriots had their moments, especially Onochie Ochie, who had to sit out most of the first and third quarters in foul trouble. But he took over in the second, scoring 12 of his team-high 18 points, including six of the final eight points in the half.

"We let them sneak back in,'' Ochie said of Woodland's comeback. "We might have lost focus -- might have. We've just got to make sure we are 100 percent focused. Teams are going to be just as talented as we are.''

All five Westover starters had big moments. Sapp (11 points), Chris Wheeler (10 points), Shevren Keaton (9 points) and Anthony Ball (9 points), and Keion Miller came off the bench to hit two 3s and score eight points in the third quarter.

But only Keaton, who hit four free throws, and Wheeler (one free throw) scored during the final six minutes. Woodland's Darius Tooks scored 13 during the stretch and finished with 32.

"This is a wakeup call,'' Ball said. "We relaxed and we can't do that. We should have beaten that team by 20, 30 points.''