ALBANY -- Albany High boys coach Archie Chatmon called it "vintage Westover-Albany."
Westover coach Dallis Smith called it a "dogfight."
And the fans? Well, let's just say they got their money's worth.
Late Tuesday night, Westover (1-1) -- the No. 4-ranked team in Class AAA in the coaches preseason poll -- was pushed to the limit by its cross-town rival before coming out on top, 60-59, after the Indians missed two attempts to win the game inside 10 seconds.
Even crazier was the fact that Albany led the entire game until late in the fourth quarter when Malcolm Sapp -- who finished with a game-high 28 points -- pulled the Patriots ahead for the first time with just under two minutes to go, then helped the Pats hold on to avoid a big, early season upset.
"It's always a dogfight when we play them over there," Smith said. "We were down four at the half and we just had to regroup. Credit Albany, but it was also a good win for us because we need to learn how to win those (close games)."
For Albany (0-3), it marked the third straight gut-wrenching defeat for the Indians to open the 2010-11 season -- and all three have been close. AHS lost to its opener to Herald preseason No. 1 Monroe (1-0) last Friday, 51-41, then fell to Dougherty (1-0) one night later, 55-52, before losing to WHS on Tuesday by a point.
Chatmon, however, found plenty of positives in the loss.
"It hurt. No doubt -- it was painful. The kids were upset. But my job as a coach is to get them to understand that our program is headed in the right direction," Chatmon said. "And while we didn't get the 'W', it was how we played (teams like Westover, Dougherty and Monroe) that counts. And we played all three of them tough."
Chatmon added that leading scorer Tim Anderson (15 points), along with Larry Sanford and Tim Pierce (14 points each) were "starting to understand their roles," which is exactly what he needs as the Indians try to find their identity early in the season.
"It was good to have that feeling again -- the feeling that we can fight with a Westover tooth-and-nail like back in the day," Chatmon said. "And to get three guys in double figures? Man, we haven't had that happen in about three years. I was excited about that."
The Westover girls downed Albany in the early game, 60-50, but no final details were available.