Hands to the face. Full-on tackles. Nosebleeds. Plenty of three-point plays.
It would usually make more sense if those actions were used to describe the scene at last night’s BCS title game, but in this case, they were all things West Point had to endure Monday during a thrilling 47-45 win over area rival Brewer.
“I guess you could say that’s 5A basketball,” Warriors’ coach Randy Jones said. “Us, Hartselle, Cullman and Brewer — it’s just like that every game. It’s a battle.”
Whether it was because of charges, hard fouls, slaps, elbows or body slams, the matchup was anything but friendly and gentle. The fans may not have agreed with the referees swallowing their whistles in many of those instances, but West Point’s Wesley Smith was glad they did.
“They (the referees) let a lot of stuff go,” he said. “But that’s how it needs to be. They don’t need to be nitpicky.”
After being tied at 41-41, 43-43 and 45-45 late in the fourth quarter, it was Smith who cut to the lane, received a clean pass from Nathan Marchman and kissed the game-winning layup off the glass with only 16 seconds remaining.
“That was a big shot to win the ballgame,” Jones said.
Somehow standing on the floor when the final buzzer sounded was Josh Looney, who by far took the night’s biggest beating. The junior had to momentarily leave the game in the first half because of a nosebleed-inducing hit he suffered.
Then, after returning from the locker room with pieces of gauze sticking out of his nostrils, Looney grabbed a steal before being picked up and thrown to the ground by the Patriots’ Austin Speegle, who was immediately hit with a technical foul.
If that weren’t enough, Looney’s eyes were swiped in the fourth quarter, causing the guard to fall to the floor in pain.
With his team still battling for the victory, though, the junior never thought about calling it quits — swollen, plugged-up nose (he said he couldn’t tell if it was broken), watery eyes and all.
“He’ll do whatever it takes to win,” Jones said. “It doesn’t matter to him if it’s scoring, passing or having to play defense — he’s just that type of kid. If it’s for the team, he’s going to do whatever he can. That’s what a winner does.”
Other than two times where West Point led by five points, the contest was close from wire to wire. There were two instances in the third quarter when Tyler Vandergrift broke ties with 3-point shots, and he almost pulled off a third in the final quarter. The last one turned out to be a deep 2-pointer, however, because the senior’s foot was on the line.
“When he’s on, he’s the best pure shooter I’ve ever seen,” Jones said. “He’s smooth.”
Smith led the Warriors with 11 points, Vandergrift was right behind with 10 and Nick Vandergrift, Tyler’s twin, scored eight.
The loss pushed Brewer to 0-6 in Class 5A, Area 13 play, assuring the Patriots the No. 4 seed in the upcoming area tournament. Jones, whose squad is now 10-7 (2-2), was glad it won’t be his team playing either Cullman or Hartselle first come postseason play.
“This was a big win,” he said. “Our area tournament is going to be so competitive, I just didn’t want to have to play the home team in the first round.”
Brewer 75, West Point 33: The Warriors took an early 4-0 lead after Rachel Persall capped off a steal with a drive to the basket and Jamie Beasley put back a rebound.
From there, though, the Class 5A, No. 5-ranked Patriots (18-2) scored 12 unanswered points, nine of which came from Courtney Oldacre, and stayed on top the rest of the way. The senior guard drained three straight 3-pointers in the first quarter and went on to hit three more on her way to a 23-point performance.
West Point (9-7, 0-4 in Area 13) center Chelcee Kelley nailed a trey of her own in the second quarter. She also made a jumper in the fourth quarter to account for her five points.
Persall came out hot, contributing seven first-quarter points. In addition to finishing with a team-high 15 points, the junior guard also played pesky defense, deflecting numerous passes, and hustling down the floor possession after possession.
Kari Williams netted five points.
The victory gives Brewer a 5-1 area record, which can only be matched by Cullman (17-4, 3-1), who still has games remaining against the Warriors and Hartselle (today).
Vinemont 43, Falkville 31: The Eagles jumped out to a 5-0 lead, were up 21-16 at halftime and pulled away in the second half to snag their third win since the Christmas break.
Jordan Melton’s 21 points were tops for Vinemont (8-10), and Sydney Wallace pitched in 12.
Both Eagles also scored double figures in the squad’s win against Hanceville last Friday.
“They have the ability to score, and they’re showing a lot of hustle,” coach Lance Lay said.
Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 257 or at email@example.com.