By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times
Following back-to-back losses to Cullman and Lawrence County, the West Point boys’ basketball team was in desparate need of a victory.
Thanks to outstanding guard play and defense, the Warriors got just what they were looking for, defeating Hartselle on the road by a final of 55-47 on Friday night.
“That was a big win for us to get,” coach Randy Jones said. “Hopefully, it will give us some confidence going into the county tournament next week.”
The Warriors (15-7, 3-3 in Class 5A, Area 15) controlled the game from start to finish and never trailed the host Tigers.
Guards Jordan McKenzie and Kris Keller were a big reason for the Warriors’ success early on.
McKenzie started out red-hot, scoring 11 of his 15 points in the first quarter, including a perfect 3-for-3 mark from behind the arc to give the Warriors a five-point lead after one.
“The guys did a good job of setting screens and getting him the ball,” Jones said of the junior. “When he got it, he knocked ‘em down.”
West Point built up a 31-16 lead heading into the break.
Keller was the second-half star for the Warriors, accumulating 12 of his 16 points in the third and fourth quarters.
The game was not won on offense alone, however, as the Warrior D was too much for the Tigers to handle.
West Point forced several turnovers and bad shots, while also coming up with its fair share of blocks and steals.
“We aren’t a great offensive team,” Jones said. “We have to bring it every night on defense to have a chance to win the game. Our defensive intensity was really good tonight.”
The next scorer in line for the Warriors was Wesley Smith, who collected eight points.
Nick Nuss added seven, while Tristan Dubberly scored four, Josh Looney, three and Ryder Jones, two.
For Hartselle, Timbo Slaton netted 18 points. Preston Adams scored 14.
The Warriors will be on break until next Wednesday when they take the floor against Cold Springs in the first round of the Cullman County Basketball Tournament. Tip-off is slated for 7:30 p.m.
% Hartselle 40, West Point 35: The Lady Warriors bid for a season sweep over the Lady Tigers came up just short on Friday night as Hartselle guard Quanesha Burks buried a game-winning 3-pointer late in the game.
Trailing by five points entering the fourth quarter, the Warriors stormed back, going on an 11-4 run to take a two-point lead with just over two minutes left to play.
After a pair of Hartselle free throws tied the game at 35-35, the Warriors were unable to score on their next possession.
Unfortunately for Regina Jones’ squad, they never saw a lead again, as Burks nailed the clutch trey to give her team a three-point advantage and, ultimately, the win.
“We missed too many free throws tonight,” Jones said. “We also had a defensive breakdown that let their player get a wide-open shot for 3.”
Free throws were certainly an issue for the Warriors. They made just 6-of-16 attempts from the charity stripe.
Rachel Persall was the leading scorer for the Warriors with 11 points. Madison Rusk added seven.
Other Warrior contributors were Kari Williams, six points; Jamie Beasley, four; Mallory Walker, three; and Alex Baggett and Courtney Walker, two each.
The Lady Warriors’ next game will be Tuesday night against the play-in game winner between Fairview and Hanceville. The game is scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m.
% Jake Winfrey can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 258 or at email@example.com.