ALBANY — From the opening tip to Dougherty’s Ricardo Sloan going head first over the scorer’s table in an effort to retrieve a loose ball, the Trojans were determined to play the role of spoiler.
Early on the Trojans took charges, played the passing lanes and contested every shot, setting up an 18-4 run to start the game.
The only problem: It did not last.
In the end, Westover used a 32-point third quarter to get back in the game, and, ultimately, took down the Trojans 73-59 Friday night at Darton State College.
“We just played hard, listened to what the coaches said, slowed down and broke through the defense they were in,” Westover’s Michael Green said.
The Patriots were clearly a different team in the second half. Trailing 30-22, Westover grabbed the lead for the first time when Timothy White dunked on a fastbreak play. The basket was part of a 9-0 run that eventually turned into 15 unanswered points.
“I guess our minds weren’t focused on the game at first but we realized that they weren’t supposed to be in the game with us so we came back with more intensity,” said C. J. Davis, who led the Patriots with 15 points.
White and Jordan Floyd each scored 13 points, while Dunavan Robinson chipped in nine points.
Dougherty’s Shunwhaski Wheeler tried to keep his team in the game with his three-point shooting. He finished with a game-high 19 points, while David Quimby had 12 points and Charles Porter scored seven.
But the 17-point swing in the third quarter was more than Wheeler and the rest of the Trojans could handle.
“Sometimes you come into the game overconfident, and I told my kids you can’t overlook Dougherty because they are going to play hard,” Westover head coach Dallis Smith said. “They had nothing to lose so they came to play. We came out lackadaisical, thinking we were just going to beat them instead of playing solid defense.”
Westover’s strategy for turning the game in its favor meant overloading one side of the floor and then swinging the ball to the open shooter. After knocking down the first few open looks, the Patriots used their energy to attack Dougherty’s perimeter defenders.
Lastly, Westover took a page from Dougherty’s book and turned up the defense, taking away practically all easy buckets for the Trojans.
Finishing the regular season with a mark of 18-5, the Patriots will use Friday’s comeback as a momentum carrier.
“It really gives us a boost going into region tournament, knowing we ended the year on a three-game win streak,” Green said.
For Dougherty, a difficult year with a lot of tough losses comes to an end. The Trojans do have some young players in place that have the chance to assert themselves into a leadership position.