CHULA - Tiftarea Academy played a pair of close basketball games Friday night, but unfortunately, both fell at the hands of visiting Westwood. The Lady Panthers dropped a 57-49 score while the Panthers were downed 53-46.
Mike Patrick said he could not be too upset by the loss. He is playing a young roster and, at times, he said he had five sophomores on the court. This lineup was a major reason they led by a point going into the final period.
The Panthers dug an early hole against Gordy Gruhl's Westwood squad, down 12-2 after a quarter. A pair of free throws by Tripp Cooper three minutes into the second period increased that gap to 19-5.
Tiftarea got themselves back into it. Dylan Harbort hit five straight points and John Austin Lee hit a bucket to make it 20-13. Then came disaster. Patrick was hit with a technical foul. Less than a minute later, another technical was assessed as the Panthers had six players on the floor when the ball was live.
Westwood only got two points out of those technicals and Tiftarea's halftime deficit of 25-14 could have been much worse.
The lead stayed at 11 for the opening minutes of the third quarter, but things began to change. Holt Dixon nailed a three-pointer on an assist by Harbort at 5:12, sparking a 9-0 run.
Colson Stewart had a drive to the hoop during this surge and when Westwood put a triple team on Lee, he dished to a wide open Brooks Walker for an easy two points.
The Wildcats briefly collected themselves with a free throw, upping the lead to 29-26. Walker was hot, however, and ended the quarter with a put-back and two free throws, earned after he made a steal.
Tiftarea was up 30-29 at the end of the third frame.
Unfortunately, the momentum stopped there. D.J. Palmer scored four quick points to get Westwood back ahead, 33-30. John Adam Copeland and Banks Johnson kept pace with Westwood's scoring, but the Panthers missed two free throws at 5:32 when they had an opportunity to lead.
Westwood took advantage of the gift on Ethan Moss' three-pointer. Free throws again betrayed Tiftarea and the Wildcats hit three shots from deep in the final five minutes.
Johnson scored with four seconds left for the final margin.
Harbort and Walker had nine points each to lead Tiftarea, which got each more from Stewart. Stewart perhaps had the defensive play of the night, coming up with a blocked shot on a Westwood lay-up attempt in the first quarter.
Fletcher Sheffield's 17 led Westwood. Palmer scored 12 and Cooper added 10.
WESTWOOD 57, LADY PANTHERS 49
Friday's contest between the girls teams of Westwood and Tiftarea resembled a heavyweight fight for most of the evening.
Scoring was neck-and-neck throughout and neither team ever had a lead of more than nine points. In the second and third quarters, the biggest lead for either side was six, which stood for all of 16 seconds.
The Lady Panthers struggled early with the visitors from Camilla. The lightning-quick hands of Westwood saw a number of early steals and when Bri Thompson scored a basket at 3:22, they had a 10-2 advantage.
Ally Pate helped Tiftarea begin to claw their way back in when she scored on an assist by Elli Bryan at 1:40. Bryan hit two free throws and Allee Cooper made a three-pointer with three seconds left to make it 12-9 deficit at the end of the quarter.
The run was just starting at that point. Thompson scored off a steal to start the second, but the Lady Panthers were in the midst of a 15-4 streak. Cooper gave them their first lead on a three at 5:33 and more free throws bumped it to 19-14.
Westwood had five of the last six points of the quarter. Thompson fed Caitlin Santiago to end the half. Tiftarea clung to a 20-19 lead.
The Lady Panthers' advantage hit its apex at 3:40 in the third. Pate made it 34-28. Westwood answered on Emily Childress' basket and free throw. A three-pointer by DeErika Harris put the visitors ahead 37-36 with two minutes left, but Tiftarea had another run in them, scoring the last six.
Bryan upped the score to 42-37 when she beat the buzzer. Getting the ball in the backcourt with eight seconds left, she weaved through defenders before laying it up with barely a moment to spare.
The fourth quarter belonged to Westwood, with most of it coming at the free throw line. Santiago tied it at 44-all there at 5:04. She gave them the lead for good, 46-45 at the stripe.
Bailey Jones briefly stopped the Westwood charge with a jump to close to 49-47, but Harris nailed a three at 3:08. The Lady Panthers could not get a shot to fall. Westwood went 5-for-8 at the line during the last 2:30, enough to keep the lead.
Harris finished with 16 points, 13 in the second half. Santiago and Childress both scored 13 for Westwood.
Tiftarea was led by Pate's 13. Cooper contributed 11 and Bryan had 10 points.