Story and photos by Mark Carpenter –
In the game of basketball, momentum shifts can happen quite rapidly sometimes and if you needed proof of that, you only needed to be in the West Union High School gymnasium last Saturday night as the Dragons played host to the Northwest Mohawks in non-conference action. The Dragons played a very sharp first half and led by two points at halftime, but saw the roof cave in during the third quarter as the Mohawks caught fire and changed the whole landscape of the game, which eventually saw the visitors take home a 73-62 victory.
“I give a lot of credit to Northwest for pulling out the victory tonight,” said West Union head coach Josh White in a postgame radio interview. “I think we are a better team than we showed tonight.
The Dragons struck first on Saturday night, roaring to a 7-1 lead behind a three-pointer by Eli Fuller and a jumper from Garrett Vogler, but the Mohawks fought back with five straight to make it a one-point affair. Baskets by Mason Fannin and Eli Fuller send the home team to the end of the first period with an 11-8 advantage.
After the Mohawks tied the score early in the second frame, the Dragons got a stick back from Vogler, a three-point play from Craig Horton, and a Vogler free throw to go up by six. Back again came the Hawks with a three from Dustin Taylor, but a quick 6-0 run by West Union pushed the Dragon lead to double digits at 26-16, a margin that could have been much higher if the home team hadn’t missed six free throws in the quarter.
Again, Northwest had an answer as their big man inside, Kyle Leslie, took over with eight points in the stanza that helped his squad pull back to within 31-27. A three-pointer from Patrick Thurman made it a one-point game before a Vogler free throw with just 0.6 seconds left sent the Dragons to the break clinging to a 32-20 lead.
The third quarter would spell disaster for the Dragons, as the Mohawks went crazy from long distance and turned a halftime deficit into their first lead of the game. West Union began the second half with a 6-2 spurt to lead 38-32, but that was to be the high point for the home side.The Northwest rally began with a three from Kaleb Smith, and though a trey from the Dragons’ D.J. Welch temporarily stopped the bleeding, back to back threes by Northwest point guard Mason Campbell gave the Mohawks their first lead at 43-41, but they were not finished.
After a Welch basket tied the score, Northwest closed the third quarter with a 9-0 run over the last minute, capped by a long three at the buzzer by Smith to take a 52-43 lead into the final eight minutes of play.
As the Dragons went totally ice cold from the field on their home court, the Mohawks continued to roll, going on a 9-2 run early in the fourth period to take a commanding 61-45 lead. West Union stayed alive with a couple of buckets, but time was running out and a bucket by Leslie with 2:40 to play kept the Northwest advantage at 65-49.
After a pair of Fannin free throws for the Dragons, the Mohawks answered with a three from Thurman, which may have been the dagger, giving Northwest a 68-51 lead with under two minutes to go. In the final minutes, the Dragons got three-point goals, from Vogler, Fannin, and Conner Campbell, but it was too little, too late as the Mohawks rode their big second half to a 73-62 triumph on the road.
The winners placed three players in double figures, led by 19 points from Leslie, who the Dragons had no answer for in the paint. Smith added 17 and Campbell 15 for the Mohawks, who hit 16 free throws in the final period, including their first 11 points, and also drilled 10 three-pointers in the victory, half of their baskets from the field.
The Dragons, who were a bit shorthanded with Jared Fenton out to an injury suffered the night before and Elijah McCarty leaving midway through the game with a busted lip, were led by 16 points from Vogler and 11 by Welch, with Fuller, Fannin, and Horton all adding 7 apiece.
“We lost Jared last night to a bad ankle sprain and then Elijah takes an elbow tonight that pushes his tooth through his lip,” said Coach White. “We do depend on Elijah out there as one of our best three-point shooters and he is a calming personality on the floor, although he plays with a lot of intensity. To lose him for the last half of the game tonight really hurt.”
The Dragons have now lost three straight and stand at 1-4 on the season, with another tough task facing them on Tuesday night, when they welcomed to town the Peebles Indians for a Southern Hills Athletic Conference battle.
8 22 22 21 –73
11 21 11 19 –62
Northwest (73): Emmons 1 1-2 3, Spensee 0 2-2 2, Campbell 2 9-11 15, Smith 5 2-2 17, Webb 2 0-0 4, Taylor 2 0-0 5, Rowe 0 2-2 2, Thurman 2 0-2 6, Leslie 6 7-11 19, Team 20 23-32 73.
W. Union (62): Welch 4 2-2 11, Fuller 3 0-1 7, Vogler 5 5-11 16, Fannin 2 2-4 7, Wolke 1 0-0 2, McCarty 2 0-0 4, Campbell 1 1-2 4, Horton 3 1-1 7, Mullenix 2 0-0 4, Team 23 11-21 62.
Northwest (10): Campbell 2, Smith 5, Taylor 1, Thurman 2
W. Union (5): Welch 1, Fuller 1, Vogler 1, Fannin 1, Campbell 1
In the JV contest, the Dragons and Coach Austin Kingsolver improved their record to 4-1 as they rolled past Northwest by a final score of 64-33, racking up 44 points in the second and third quarters combined.
West Union led at every stop, 11-9, 29-12, 55-27, and finally 64-33.
The winning Dragons were led by 19 points from Ryan Rothwell, with Conner Campbell adding 15 and Jordan Lamphier 10.