West Stokes was out of sync for three-and-a-half quarters of play against rival East Surry on Wednesday, but with 15 seconds left in regulation, sophomore Elan Muniz hit a three-pointer sending the game into overtime where the Wildcats won 72-67 over the undefeated Cardinals.
“We didn’t play well early on,” said Wildcat coach Dan Spainhour. “East Surry let us hang around and we did some nice things in the fourth quarter. We just need to start learning to trust our system instead of trying to play too much individual basketball. We are a young team still trying to learn how to play and to trust one another.”
West Stokes held an early advantage when Noah Spainhour scored the Cats first six points of the game. After both teams traded baskets, the Cardinals spurted out to a 16-8 edge on a 9-0 run with all of their points coming from 6’9” sophomore Jefferson Boaz. The Purple Cats tightened their defense and chipped away at the lead and trailed 18-14 after one quarter of play.
The Wildcats closed the Cardinals lead to one point, but the visitors jumped ahead 35-30 going into the half behind Boaz’s 17 points.
“We just need to toughen up and stop making dumb plays in the second half in order for us to have a chance,” Spainhour said. “Our defense had to get better.”
In the third quarter, the Cards took a 42-34 edge before the Wildcats came battling back on a 9-2 run with Isaac Spainhour hitting a three-pointer to cut the East Surry lead to 44-43. Boaz scored the final four points of the period giving the Cardinals a 48-43 advantage.
West Stokes fought back in the fourth quarter, knotting the score at 50 on two free throws by Tyler Smith. The team took their first lead since early in the contest on a three-pointer by Isaac Spainhour with four minutes remaining in the game. The Cardinals regrouped after a timeout and went back ahead 59-57 with less than a minute to play. With East Surry in possession of the ball, the home team fouled putting the Cards on the free throw line. One of two were made, setting up the heroics of Muniz’s shot to tie the game and send it into overtime.
Both teams traded points in the opening minutes before West Stokes took the lead for good on Isaac Spainhour’s layup giving West a 66-64 lead. The Wildcats were six-for-six on free throws down the stretch to hold off the Cardinals and secure the victory.
Noah Spainhour led the Wildcats with 29 points and six rebounds. Isaac Spainhour dropped in 20 points, while John Brooke and Muniz each added six. Boaz led the Cardinals with 27 points.
“The difference in the game was our ability to score off of their turnovers,” Spainhour said. “They had 16 turnovers and we were able to convert those into some easy baskets. They guarded us well in our half court set and made it hard for us to score.”
On Friday, the Wildcats looked to win their fourth straight game, but had a letdown against WPAC opponent Carver and lost 57-52 at home.
“That really took all the momentum we had from beating East Surry on Wednesday,” stated Spainhour. “They were tougher than us and pushed us around. They played very physical and used it to their advantage. We are very talented, but young and make mistakes. We’re going to have to mature quickly or this could be a long season for us.”
Isaac and Noah Spainhour led the team with 13 points each against Carver and Muniz chipped in 11.
After both games, the Wildcats fell to 3-4 overall and 1-1 in WPAC play. West Stokes will travel to East Surry on Thursday and take on the 6-1 Cardinals in a rematch. Game time is 8 p.m.
Robert Money can be reached at 336-749-1193.