Worth County’s Kidarias Gaint dribbles past Westover’s Jordan Floyd Tuesday night at Westover’s Boston Garden. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)
ALBANY — They played, slipped and slid across the floor for loose balls.
Fans from both schools stood and cheered when their team made a basket, then booed when a call didn’t go their way.
It’s only the first full week of January, but the atmosphere at Westover High School’s Boston Garden felt more like playoff basketball Tuesday night when The Herald No. 1 Patriots entertained No. 2 Worth County in a battle of Region 1-AAAA leaders.
After both teams traded leads and baskets in the second half, Worth County outslugged Westover 54-51 in a game that lived up to its hype.
With the win, the Rams have a two-game lead in the Region 1-AAAA standings.
Playing for the final shot, Jamon Moore drove the lane, then dished to Brandon Moore, who was open on the baseline. Brandon Moore banged a shot off the glass with 2.3 seconds left to help Worth maintain its lead.
"I knew I had to do something with the ball," Jamon Moore said. "The clock was going down, so I had to get the best shot I could. Brandon (Moore) went down, his man committed to me, Brandon slid down and then I dumped it to him. I knew (Westover's) Tim White was in front of me and it was mismatch. Kyle Baker came to me and Brandon backed up a little. I acted like I was going to shoot, then dished the ball off to him."
It was the fourth straight win for the Rams, who snapped Westover's six-game winning streak. Worth County coach Arthur Davis was relieved when the final horn sounded.
"We were trying to penetrate and I told our guys that if they come to you, somebody has got to be open," Davis said. "Luckily, Jamon found Brandon Moore on the baseline and he made the shot."
The game didn’t come without its share of questionable calls. After the Rams lost a turnover with 15 seconds left, winning the game seemed to be out of reach. When Ken’Darrius Collier went to foul Westover’s Jordan Floyd with 10 seconds left, game officials ruled Floyd traveled, setting up Moore’s heroics.
"It's not like us to have the mental lapses we did (Tuesday)," Westover coach Dallis Smith said. "Given a game like this, we definitely didn't have a lot of energy and didn't play well."
Westover took a commanding 20-9 lead early in the second quarter only to watch the Rams storm back and pull to within a basket. But back-to-back steals and layups from Mike Green and Dunavon Robinson helped the Patriots extend their lead to 26-18 before Brandon Moore buried a 3-pointer at the buzzer to trim the deficit to 26-23.
Smith wasn't happy with his team's shot selection late in the second quarter.
"To be honest, we're up by six with 20 seconds left, we run down and take a tough shot, which allows them to come down and hit a three," Smith said. "That's just not good basketball."
Worth finally caught up with Westover when Brandon Moore sank a basket with 4:35 left in the third. From there, neither team led by more than three, and they traded leads throughout the final quarter.
"I told our guys at halftime that we were playing pretty good defense in the first half," Davis said. "Some of our shots had come up a little short, but I told them that if they kept playing hard and kept working, some of the shots that didn't fall in the first half would fall in the second half."
The Rams (12-2, 6-0 Region 1-AAAA) play host to Monroe on Friday night. The Tornadoes are the only team Worth County hasn’t beaten in region play this season.
Davis doesn't want too much to be made of Tuesday's win.
"It's still a long season and with this region, anything can happen," he said. "I'm proud of where we are, but there is still a lot of work to do."
Worth County meets Westover (10-3, 3-2) again on Feb. 4 in Sylvester.
Herald Super 6er Anfernee McLemore led the Rams with 16, while Brandon Moore and Dontate Cooper added 13 and 11 points, respectively.
Timothy White led the Patriots with 16, while Andre Kennedy finished with 11.