Survive and advance
Westlake boys defeat Patuxent in 2A South playoff opener
The film “La La Land” has been a critical darling this year, garnering 14 Academy Awards nominations. But when Westlake head boys basketball coach Ed Mouton spoke of his team being in la la land following its win over Patuxent on Friday night, there was nothing complimentary about it.
“We have to refocus. That’s our mindset right now. We just have to refocus and play Westlake basketball,” Mouton said following Westlake’s 63-55 win over the visiting Panthers in the teams’ Class 2A South Region Section I quarterfinal. The win earned the Wolverines a section semifinal at sec- ond-seeded Calvert on Tuesday. “Right now we’re kind of in la la land. Once we start playing like we’re capable of, I think we’ll be fine. I know Calvert has been to our last three games scouting us, so I know they’ll be ready. But I think if we put 32 minutes together, we’ll be fine.”
Westlake (17-7), the section’s No. 3 seed, has struggled with putting complete games together of late. The Wolverines finished the season on a three-game losing streak that frequently featured slow starts from the team.
On Friday, the first three quarters were rela- tively strong for the hosts, as they held a 51-34 lead heading into the final quarter. But Patuxent (518), the section’s sixth seed, opened the final period on a 10-0 run that fea- tured three-pointers from Brendan West and Vonnie Watkins to quickly close the gap to 51-44 before Westlake’s Jeff Simmons hit a three of his own to momentarily stop the bleeding.
Later, the Panthers closed to within 58-54 on a Myron Young bucket with 1 minute 36 seconds remaining. But the visi- tors could pull no further.
Wayne Young converted a pair of free throws with 1:30 left to provide a little more breathing room, and converted 1 of 2 attempts with 48 seconds to play to make it a three-possession game, 61-54. Amir Law- rence was able to score on a layup in the final half-min- ute to seal the win for the Wolverines.
“We played very well for three quarters, then we got a little relaxed in the fourth quarter,” Mouton said. “They were able to get it down to [four]. This time of year you have to play 32 minutes. We were fortunate to execute at the end. We got a couple of layups and a couple free throws to finish the game.”
Simmons and Young each scored 13 points to lead Westlake’s effort, while Lawrence added 12. But the Wolverines strug- gled mightily from the line, making just 13 free throws out of 36 attempts (36 percent) to allow for the dramatic finish.
“I’m telling my team that this time of year everybody is gunning to make it as far as they can,” Mouton said. “We can’t play for three quarters and be satisfied. We were up [17 at the end of three quarters] and then we just got real lackadaisical. Any team that’s trying to get to the next game is going to keep fighting to the end. We just got complacent. We have to go back to the drawing board and be ready for Calvert on Tuesday.”
Watkins led the Panthers with a game-high 17 points, which included four rim-rattling dunks.
“Seventeen points down in a quarter is tough to come back from,” Patuxent head coach Nick Wilson said, referencing his team’s deficit at the end of three. “It was a great run. We hit some good shots. The turnovers are what killed us. I’d have to imagine we turned it over at least 30 times early on. Maybe if we do a better job with that in the first half, it’s a 10- or 12-point hole. Every time it felt like we were maybe going to turn that corner they got a steal. Their defense was good. The pressure was there and they were able to convert.”
STAFF PHOTO BY ANDY STATES Westlake’s Jeff Simmons drives towards the basket with Patuxent’s Troy Thomas defending during Friday night’s 2A South Region Section I quarterfinal at Westlake. The hosts defeated Patuxent 63-55.