West Stokes came off a heartbreaking loss to R.J. Reynolds in the championship game of the Frank Spencer Holiday Classic last week only to face an athletic Atkins team who placed third in the same tournament. The Wildcats used a 28 point fourth quarter on Wednesday to pull away for a 77-47 much needed victory in the Western Athletic Piedmont 2A Conference race.
“We were really concerned with their pressure coming into the game,” said Wildcat coach Dan Spainhour. “I thought we handled it well. They are a really good team and we were able to find some open shots. Our defense was pretty good tonight and we had the right people shooting the ball.”
The Wildcats opened the game on a 10-3 run behind sophomore Elan Muniz’s hot shooting from the three-point line. West’s advantage grew to 19-6 with 1:39 left in the first quarter forcing Atkins into a 30-second timeout. The Camels regrouped and scored the last four points of the period with the home team leading 21-11.
The second quarter was a game of spurts for both teams. The Wildcats used a 10-2 run to take a 16 point edge with 2:03 left before the half. Atkins responded again by holding the Cats scoreless the remainder of the period, while the visitors tacked on six points in the last minute to trail 31-21 going into the locker room.
“We had a stretch where we turned the ball over four-out-of-seven possessions in the second quarter,” Spainhour said. “We talked about limiting our turnovers and playing smart. We were rebounding well and felt we had established an inside presence and we needed to continue that in the second half.”
West Stokes started the third quarter with multiple turnovers and allowed their 16 point lead in the first half to dwindle to 38-34 with 3:20 left in the period. A timeout by Spainhour settled the Wildcats down. They went on to outscore the visitors 11-4 behind Muniz’s nine points and held a 49-38 lead into the last eight minutes of the game.
The Wildcats blew open the fourth quarter on a 21-2 run, including Muniz’s seventh three-pointer of the night, and finished off any hopes of a Camel run.
“We have been working on other players stepping up besides Isaac and Noah (Spainhour),” the coach said. “I’ve been telling these guys from the get-go that we need to develop each of them to be leaders and Elan made some shots and that really opened things up for us to drive the ball.”
Isaac Spainhour led the Wildcats with 22 points and eight assists, while Muniz added 21 points and five rebounds. Noah Spainhour chipped in a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
West Stokes improves to 8-5 overall and moved into a tie with Walkertown, who top the conference with a 3-1 record. Atkins fell to 11-4 and 2-2. The Wildcats will face Forbush on Friday.
Lady Wildcats falter in second half
The Lady Wildcats were the only team in the area without a game over the Christmas break and their 12 day absence showed with a 53-34 loss to WPAC leader, Atkins (10-3, 4-0) on Wednesday in King.
“Our effort was there,” said Wildcat coach Dillon Bobbitt. “But execution and consistency was lacking tonight. We struggled to adjust to their zone and they played very physical with us. We started the game well, but our team needs to learn to trust one another on the court.”
The Lady Cats began the game by scoring the first four points and leading 12-11 after one quarter of play on freshman Emma Santoro’s inside work. The Camels knotted the score at 15 midway through the second period as each team settled for a 19-19 tie at the break.
The visitors opened up the game in the third period when sharp shooter Taylor Blakely and forward Kayla Chrisp led their team with a combined 17 points and outscored the Lady Cats 21-6 in the quarter to take a 40-25 advantage.
The Wildcats had plenty of opportunities to rally in the last period, but 11 missed free throws and multiple missed layups allowed the Camels to stay comfortably ahead.
“We need to develop a sense of urgency,” Bobbitt said. “Our players have to be ready when called upon and we have to keep our rhythm and energy from start to finish.”
Santoro led the Wildcats with 11 points and 13 rebounds, while Eugenia Marcelli added nine and Hannah Spainhour seven. West Stokes shot 29 percent for the game and were 5-for-24 at the free throw line.
The Lady Wildcats drop to 7-3 overall and 2-2 in the WPAC. They will travel to Forbush on Friday for another important conference game with the Falcons (10-2, 3-0).
“We are going to go back to practice and work on our stuff and then show up and compete on Friday,” Bobbitt said.
Robert Money can be reached at 336-749-1193.