Warrior boys spurt past Red Raiders

Feb. 15, 2013 @ 10:41 PM

The Wheatmore boys feel like they’re getting back closer to where they need to be, and it couldn’t come at a better time.

The Warriors, after losing to rival Trinity during a crazy stretch of schedule-altered games, have devoted the last week to regaining their fitness. Over the final 16 minutes against visiting T.W. Andrews, it made the difference.

Wheatmore trailed much of the first half but whittled it to two at halftime and opened the second half with a 17-2 run to beat the Red Raiders 67-50 Friday night on Senior Night to clinch third place in the PAC-6 2A, just ahead of fourth-place Andrews.

“I can tell you the difference: We’re back in shape,” Warriors coach David Spell said. “We’ve been practicing since the Trinity loss like it was tryouts. We said that nobody’s guaranteed a position, nobody’s guaranteed a minute. We got out of basketball shape, and that was my fault.

“We’re not back where we want to be yet. But when can spot Andrews 10 and come back and beat them, you don’t just do it on luck. You’ve got to be in shape. I was really proud of the seniors and how they played, and I was also really proud of everybody and how hard they played.”

Wheatmore trailed by 22-16 after one quarter and by as many as seven in the second quarter. But Jason Ozment’s putback at the halftime buzzer cut it to 29-27, and Brayton Hardin’s back-to-back 3s to start the third quarter got them rolling in the second half.

The Warriors (18-5, 7-3 PAC-6) scored the first nine points of the quarter to lead by seven and pushed it to 13 at 44-31 with 3:00 left. They limited Andrews (6-15, 5-5), which finished fourth, to just five field goals through the first 14 minutes of the half in pushing their lead to 21.

“We always get put in a hole in the beginning of the game,” said A.D. Harris, a senior guard. “And I felt like if we pushed in the second half, it would tire the other team out. I felt like we had the momentum going into the second half.

“We had a couple lazy practices, and we had a team meeting after the Randleman game. We said we had to get back in shape — no more half-(hearted) practices. So, the last couple days in practice we’ve been running up and down the court for about two hours and getting in the weight room.”

Harris finished with 18 points followed by Hardin with 14 and Nathan Hammett, who drew tremendous praise from Spell after the game for his work in his only varsity season, with 11 for Wheatmore. Bennie Butler scored 16 while Xavier Davis had 12 and Chris Eatmon had 11 for the Red Raiders.

The PAC-6 tournament will begin Monday at Atkins.