Wheatmore rallies past Trinity
The Wheatmore boys wanted this win. Not only did they badly want to beat their fiercest rivals, but they also wanted to gain the upper hand in the PAC-6 2A as well.
In a key matchup for the crosstown foes, the Warriors made just a couple of critical plays down the stretch that proved to be the difference in beating Trinity 40-37 for only the second time ever on Tuesday in a packed Dog House.
"This was exactly what I expected," Wheatmore coach David Spell said. "It was going to be the team that could capitalize at the end. I told our guys that we had a little bit more legs, so they needed to play great defense — and they did. So, whatever it cost to get into this game, you got your money's worth. You saw two excellent teams play each other — and they do know each other. But I think you saw some old-school basketball. ...
"It's a huge conference game," he added later. "I tried to tell the kids that, besides it being Trinity and Wheatmore, it's a huge conference game. I really believe that if Trinity plays to its capability and we play to our capability, then the conference goes to one of us. I believe that. But we can't rest. We're going to enjoy this for about 30 seconds before getting ready for a very good basketball team in Randleman."
With the game tied 27-27 heading to the fourth and 31-31 with 4 1/2 minutes left, the Warriors (13-2, 2-0 PAC-6 2A) scored on Brayton Hardin's layup and foul and Jason Ozment's layup and foul to lead 36-31 with 1:55 left. That was just enough breathing room to hold off the Bulldogs (12-2, 1-1), who led by nine in the second quarter and 25-19 at halftime.
"It felt really good," Ozment said. "We'd already beaten them once, but I'm a senior this year and we've gotten beat by them eight, nine times before. So, it feels really good to finally beat them twice — and hopefully we'll pull out another one next time. ... It's mainly bragging rights, because this is the biggest rivalry we have. We're all from the same town; we all grew up together. It's just fun to brag to your friends and have bragging rights until next time.
"We got beat on the boards pretty good in the first half," he said of the second-half turnaround. "So, we came in the locker room, figured out what we needed to work on, what we needed to do and really got on the boards in the second half. We really just outran them. I felt like we were in better shape than them. And as much as we hate to run and do conditioning drills in practice, like Coach said, it paid off."
Ozment finished with 11 points while Anthony Harris had seven and Hardin had six to lead Wheatmore, which outscored Trinity 8-2 in the third quarter to tie it heading to the final eight minutes. Brandon Earnhardt and Daniel Newcomer each had nine while David Newcomer added six for the Bulldogs.
Trinity controlled chunks of the game, particularly during much of the second quarter in which it used a 10-3 spurt to lead 25-16 with 1:06 left in the half. But toward the end of the quarter and into the second half, a few hiccups on defense and missed opportunities on offense opened the door to the Warriors regaining control.
"I thought our kids played with effort," Bulldogs coach Tim Kelly said, following a lengthy team discussion after the game. "Our kids did play hard. But we've got to finish. We hit a 3 at the end, so really it was six. We came down in the fourth quarter and got three straight stops and missed three straight layups — three point-blank layups. I know the kids didn't miss them on purpose, but that's three stops when it's a two-point game and we have nothing to show for it. ...
"At the end of the day, the team that's most disciplined probably wins. And in a close game, I've heard you take three to five plays and that's the difference. That's two (gamble plays on defense leading to Wheatmore layups) and you take the layups and that's five plays. If we make those, do we win? I don't know — but we're not down six. We did play better this time ... but I guess the biggest thing I want the kids to learn is that you've got to make the plays in crunch time that you make during the normal part of the game, even more so."
The Warriors play again Friday at home against Randleman, while the Bulldogs visit Andrews on Wednesday.