West Stokes attempt for their third Frank Spencer championship title in seven years slipped away Thursday night against RJ Reynolds when the Demons overcame a 15 point deficit at the half and won 72-69 in the Pepsi bracket of the tournament.
“We couldn’t overcome their run to start the third quarter,” said Wildcat coach Dan Spainhour. “We were sort of surviving at that point. Our youth really showed in the second half, but we didn’t stop competing. I think in a lineup you wouldn’t have many people picking us, but we were able to hang tough.”
West Stokes overcame a four point lead in the first two minutes of the game and held an 18-14 advantage after the first quarter of play behind sophomore guard Elan Muniz’s nine points, all from behind the three-point line. The Wildcat lead grew to 20 points with 2:29 left before the half on another three-pointer by Muniz. It was the last basket the Cats would score in the remainder of the half for a 40-25 advantage going into the locker room.
“We knew they would make a run in the second half and I was hoping we could weather the storm,” Spainhour said. “We stopped defending and they started attacking us on the inside.”
The Demons began the third quarter by scoring seven points in 44 seconds. A timeout by West Stokes couldn’t slow RJ Reynolds as they completed a 19-4 run and knotted the score at 44 with 3:37 to play in the period. The Wildcats regrouped and finished the quarter by making 7-of-8 free throws for a 51-48 edge.
West Stokes held their last lead of the game at 61-60 with 2:47 left. Reynolds was ignited by tournament MVP Larry Borland vicious dunk and they never trailed again. The top seeded Demons left the door open at the end with missed free throws, but a turnover by the Wildcats ended the game.
“We scrambled in the second half,” said Spainhour. “We could never run our offense and we struggled to defend their athleticism. We are so young and that could be a problem for us down the road.”
Isaac Spainhour led the Wildcats with 21-points in the championship game, while brother Noah Spainhour added 17 and Muniz 15.
In the first two rounds of the 43rd Frank Spencer Tournament, the Wildcats came from behind and defeated the Glenn Bobcats 56-51 while missing 17-of-30 free throws. In the semi-finals, West Stokes battled 4A Reagan Raiders to a 52-45 victory.
Isaac Spainhour led the Wildcats with 25 points against Glenn and then contributed 12 versus the Raiders. Noah Spainhour added 16 and 25 against the respected teams.
“Isaac and Noah played their rear ends off during the tournament,” the coach said. “They had to bring the ball up and they had to find baskets for us. It might be a lot to ask of them, but we’re going to keep asking.”
Both Spainhour brothers were voted to the Pepsi Bracket All-Tournament team along with Borland, Mysta Goodloe (RJR), Jalon Cone (Walkertown), and Stephen Minor (Atkins).
West Stokes drops to 7-5 with the loss to RJ Reynolds (8-4) and will face Atkins (11-3), who finished third in the Pepsi bracket, on Jan. 3 in King.
Robert Money can be reached at 336-749-1193.