Westlake comes up short in SMAC boys hoops final
Hurricanes boys hold off Wolverines for first SMAC title
Huntingtown’s Nemo Stewart held a sheet of paper in the hallway out- side of the Hurricanes’ locker room following the team’s game on Wednesday night.
Listed on the paper were Southern Maryland Athletic Conference schools, with North Point, West- lake, St. Charles, Lackey, Great Mills and Leonardtown listed in descend- ing order No. 1 through No. 6. Huntingtown was listed at No. 7 on on the sheet, which was a copy of a preseason predicted order of finish from The Washington Post for the conference’s boys basket- ball teams.
On Wednesday night, Huntingtown made its own statement with a 6358 win over the visiting Westlake Wolverines in the SMAC championship game. The conference crown was the first for Huntingtown and the first for a Calvert County school since Calvert took the SMAC title in 2004.
Huntingtown (17-6 over- all) led for the game’s final 28 minutes 47 sec- onds and by as much as 15 near the midpoint of the second quarter. But Westlake (16-7) climbed all the way back to cut the deficit to just one at 59-58 with 33.4 seconds remaining. That was as far as the rally would go, though, as the hosts were able to ice the game from the freethrow line.
“It feels amazing, especially to share with my teammates,” Huntingtown’s Davaughn Reid said. “We got so close this year. To get the first one at home is crazy. The atmosphere was great. My teammates, everybody supported each other. I love playing with these guys.”
Huntingtown took the lead for good on a
DJ Hopkins basket that put it ahead for the first time at 7-5. A three-pointer moments later by Westlake’s Wayne Young pulled the Wolverines to within 11-10, but the Hurricanes closed the quarter on an 8-0 run to stretch the lead to 19-10.
Baskets by Stewart and Charlie Weber quickly extended the hosts’ edge to 23-10 early in the second. Later, after Stewart canned four free throws, including two for a technical foul assessed to Westlake for a scorebook discrepancy, the Hurricanes led 27-12. But trail- ing 32-17 after a pair of Reid free throws with 1:08 left in the half, a Jeff Simmons four-point play spurred the Wolverines to a 7-0 run to end the half to close to 32-24.
The Wolverines cut the gap a bit again in the third quarter, pulling to within 47-41 heading into the final eight minutes. The visitors continued their rally through the fourth, finally pulling to within one on Jonathan Barnes’ three with 33.4 seconds to play. But Reid converted on 3 of 4 free throws down the stretch, while Stewart made 1 of 2 with 7.4 seconds left to put a final stamp on the Hurricanes’ win.
“We came out in the first half and executed the best we have all year,” Huntingtown head coach Josh Pratt said. “I thought we played together as a team. We shared the basketball and matched their intensity. We turned them over and scored off their turnovers. We let them back in the game a little bit at the end of the second quarter and I think we gave them momentum. And they’re a great team. They’re well-coached and they’re not going to quit.”
Amir Lawrence paced the Westlake effort with 17 points, while Simmons added 15. The SMAC final was the third straight loss for the Wolverines, the first two of which came against St. Charles and North Point, and all of which have come by five-point margins. All three losses have also followed a similar pattern, as Westlake has been sluggish early of late.
“For some reason our starts have been real poor,” Westlake head coach Ed Mouton said. “We’ve been spotting teams 10, 12 points and then it’s a dogfight for the rest of the game. We’re getting close but not getting enough. Our last three games have been duplicates. We’ve seen this before, so somehow we have to get a jumpstart at the beginning. It’s just tough when you’re fighting uphill. Credit to them. They had a good game plan and made their free throws at the end. I think that was the difference in the ball game.”
Westlake is scheduled to open the postseason at 6:30 p.m. Fri- day with a home game as the No. 3 seed against No. 6 seed Patuxent in a Section I quarterfinal of the Class 2A South Region playoffs.
Huntingtown boasted four players scoring in double fig- ures, led by Weber’s 14. Daquon Watts scored 13, Stewart scored 11 and Reid added 10. The Hurricanes also managed to get some quality minutes from their bench to navigate through some early foul trouble.
“We held on,” Pratt said. “I think that’s the sign of a cham- pionship team. Paul Rodri- guez came off the bench and I thought he gave us great minutes. He was fantastic. We needed him to step up and he did.”
While last year’s Hurricanes’ squad put the program’s first banner on the wall with a 3A South Region title, this year’s group was able to continue moving forward this season to add a SMAC championship to the program’s résumé.
“We all had each other’s back and it was amazing,” said Hopkins, who chipped in eight points on Wednesday. “The culture in our locker room is great. We trust each other and we trust the process. Our coach told us to trust the process from the very beginning. That’s exactly what we did and this is the result. Last year we made the foundation and this year we’re building on that foundation.”
The team’s journey ended in the state semifinals a year ago and the memory of that has served to fuel the Hurricanes heading into this year’s playoffs. Huntingtown will host either Potomac or Great Mills in the 3A South Section II semifinals on Tuesday.
“Just thinking about last year in the locker room [in the state semifinals], not even about the game, but afterwards seeing how down we all were, especially the seniors,” Stewart said, reflecting on the team’s journey, “I have to give a lot of credit to our underclassmen because they are really helping to send us out right. If you look at the box score, it’s not just one person scoring a lot or doing a lot on defense, it really is a team effort. We’re all pitching in.”
Westlake head boys basketball coach Ed Mouton talks to his bench during the Wolverines’ SMAC championship game encounter at Huntingtown on Wednesday night. A late Westlake rally fell just short, as the Wolverines lost 63-58.
Huntingtown’s Nemo Stewart is defended by Westlake’s Jonathan Barnes during the first half of the SMAC championship game on Wednesday night at Huntingtown. Huntingtown won 63-58.