West Union tops Waverly 74-72 –
Story and photos by Mark Carpenter –
Life has certainly changed in the last couple of weeks for West Union sophomore Ryan Rothwell. Two weeks ago, Rothwell was a full-time member of the Dragons’ JV squad, getting a few varsity minutes, but sometimes performance necessitates change. By virtue of his performance in those varsity minutes, Rothwell earned a full-time promotion to the varsity and that move paid off in a big way on Saturday in the Coach Young Classic at North Adams.
In the most exciting game of the day, the Dragons battled the Waverly Tigers in a game that went to overtime, and it was in the waning seconds of the extra period that Rothwell became a hero for the day. With the game tied at 72, Rothwell hit the game-winner at the buzzer on a baseline drive to give West Union a thrilling two-point win.
“This was an incredible game,” said West Union head coach Josh White after the game. “I keep telling my boys that if we come out and play hard, fast, strong, and smart, you will be in every single basketball game for the rest of the year. Today we did that and we beat a very, very good Waverly club.”
In a season that hasn’t seen too may highlights to this point, Saturday’s win will long be remembered for its thrilling ending and its back and forth action all the way through regulation and overtime, plus an offensive battle between West Union’s Elijah McCarty and Wavery’s Cade Marquez, who scored 25 and 33 points respectively.
It was obvious from the action in the first quarter that this game was going to be a doozy, as the Dragons showed they meant business with three-pointers from Eli Fuller and McCarty to lead 6-0. Later baskets by Garrett Vogler and Rothwell helped the Dragons to a 14-9 lead after one period.
“Coming out and hitting those first shots was a one-two punch that I don’t think Waverly was expecting,” said White. “Today we came out ready and hungry and I couldn’t be prouder of my kids.”
The Dragons held on to that lead for most of the second quarter, moving it to eight points at 25-17 on another McCarty trey and a basket by Mason Fannin. Back came the Tigers, getting a pair of threes to take their first lead of the game at 30-29 with 30 seconds left in the first half, but the last word of the half went to the Dragons’ Andre Wolke, who drilled a late three to send his team to the locker room with a two-point lead.
The game remained tight throughout the third quarter, with neither team able to lead by more than six points and a 10-2 Waverly run allowed the Tigers to go back in front 42-40, but a nice baseline drive by McCarty ended up as a “basket and one” and West Union led by the slimmest of margins at 45-44 heading into the final frame.
The final eight minutes of this battle turned out to be the most exciting of the day at the Young Classic. The Tigers struck first, racing out to a seven-point advantage but a 10-4 West Union run, fueled by four points from Craig Horton, pulled the Dragons within 59-58. Vogler nailed two free throws to keep the Dragons within one and a Waverly free toss put the Tigers up 62-60 with 30 seconds left, setting up some McCarty heroics at the end of regulation.
The West Union junior guard got the ball, drove the lane, and muscled up a shot that just made it over the front of the rim and through the net, tying the game with 12 second to go. A last-second shot by the Tigers was blocked and the game headed into the four-minute overtime period.
Most overtimes are low-scoring, grind-it-out affairs, but not this one, as both teams put up double digits points. A basket by Fuller gave West Union a 68-66 lead at the 2:!5 mark and with 38 seconds to go, a Vogler free throw kept the lead at two. With 20 seconds to go, the final of 33 points by Marquez tied the game at 72 and Coach White took a timeout with 15.8 ticks left.
When the ball came into the front court, it got loose on the floor between Vogler and Rothwell, and the recently promoted sophomore picked it up, drove the baseline, and got one off the glass over a Waverly defender and as the ball found its way through the net as the buzzer blared, a wild celebration set off on the West Union sideline as the Dragons picked up their third win of the season.
“I thought my foot was out-of bounds so I dribbled and they forced me to the baseline,” said Rothwell after the game. “I took it to the baseline and their big guy came over and I shot it over him and it just went in. I was just shocked, but we beat a good team.”
McCarty was high man for the Dragons with his 25 points, with Rothwell adding 16. Eli Fuller added 9, with Garrett Vogler and Andre Wolke getting 6 each.
Cade Marquez hit a game-high 33 for theTigers, with Trey Rigsby adding 11.
9 21 14 18 10 –72
14 18 13 17 12 –74
Waverly (72): Howell 4 0-2 9, Cobe Marquez 1 2-2 4, Cade Marquez 12 7-10 33, Lybrook 1 0-0 3, Rigsby 5 0-2 11, Wolf 52-5 12, Team 28 11-21 72.
W. Union (74): Welch 2 0-3 4, Fuller 4 0-0 9, Vogler 1 5-11 7, Fannin 1 0-0 2, Wolke 3 0-0 7, McCarty 11 1-1 25, Rothwell 7 2-2 16, Horton 1 2-2 4, Team 30 10-19 74.
Waverly (5): Howell 1, Cade Marquez 2, Lybrook 1, Rigsby 1
W.Union (4): Fuller 1, Wolke 1, McCarty 2