Westover’s Dunavon Richardson looks to pass as he is defended by Randolph-Clay’s Corey Brown during Saturday’s marquee matchup at the U-Save-It Classic at Albany High. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)
ALBANY — Dallis Smith moved up and down the courtside yelling, giving instructions and encouraging his team.
Despite two wins in his last two games, the Westover coach wasn’t happy with his team’s inability to finish games.
Saturday night in one of the marquee games of the U-Save-It Classic, the Herald No. 3 Patriots’ effort made their coach smile in an exciting 47-39 victory over Herald No. 4 Randolph-Clay at Albany High School.
The Patriots (8-2) played a near flawless fourth quarter, maintaining a sizable lead with strong defense, solid shooting (5-of-11) and clutch free throw shooting down the stretch. It was one of the more complete games the Patriots have played this season.
“When you get to this point, you get the people you have to have on the floor,” Smith said. “We got the right guys we needed to have to close the game out.”
After Randolph-Clay cut the lead to 46-39 with 2:23 left, the Patriots got a basket from Dunavon Robinson, then sophomore guard Alec Williams closed out the game by hitting three-of-four free throws to seal the victory.
“I was just trying to make the shots and keep my team ahead,” said Williams, who finished with five points. “This was a good win for us.”
But Westover started sluggishly, shooting a paltry 2-of-15 from the floor in the first quarter as Randolph-Clay built a three-point lead behind a pair of baskets from Marquin Jones.
However, as the jitters subsided for both teams, Westover began to heat up offensively. They opened the second quarter on a 10-2 run to grab a 15-10 lead, hitting four of its six attempts from the floor.
But each time they seemed poised to take command, turnovers hurt them. The Patriots had almost as many turnovers in the first half (12) as they did points (20).
Randolph-Clay coach Michael Hoffpauir was frustrated that his team did not take advantage.
“When we did force turnovers, we were not able to score in transition,” he said. “With their height, it made it hard for us down low. We missed a bunch of chip shots.”
Whatever halftime adjustments Smith made worked as the Patriots used a bigger lineup to take advantage. It ended up being a breakout game for Robinson, who finished with 15 points.
“No. 5 for them (Robinson) really killed us inside,” Hoffpauir said. “We couldn’t stay in front of him and at crucial times, he came up with some big shots.”
The Red Devils (4-2) continued to battle Westover and despite trailing by as many as 10 in the third quarter, they trimmed the deficit to three by using a 7-2 run to start the final quarter.
Herald Super 6er Gary McCrae got his own rebound, then banked one off the glass to make it 35-32 with 5:53 left. Then following a Westover turnover, Randolph-Clay had a chance to cut the deficit even more, but the Patriot defense forced the Red Devils to travel. That was as close as Randolph-Clay would get.
“I thought we played well defensively considering we were a smaller team,” Hoffpauir said. “It was one of those nights where we could not get the ball in the hole. I was pleased with our effort defensively … we just didn’t do a good job shooting.”
McCrae and Cornelius Bennett led the Red Devils with nine points each. Randolph-Clay finished the game shooting just 25 percent from the floor (14-for-56).
Mike Green and Timothy Williams finished with nine points apiece for the Patriots.