West­lake comes up short in SMAC boys hoops fi­nal

Hur­ri­canes boys hold off Wolver­ines for first SMAC ti­tle

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By ANDY STATES as­tates@somd­news.com

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.”

STAFF PHOTO BY ANDY STATES

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.

STAFF PHOTO BY ANDY STATES

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.

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