Third quarter explosion sends West Union past Manchester –
By Mark Carpenter –
The resurgence of the West Union boys basketball program has begun under new head coach Greg Himes and another step in that process was taken on Friday night as the Dragons earned a trip to the McDonald’s Classic title game with an 84-55 win over the Manchester Greyhounds. The Dragons only led by two at the half but a huge third quarter was the difference as the host squad rolled into the finals for the first time since 2014.
The two teams who took the court for Friday’s nightcap were certainly polar opposites with the Dragons coming in over .500 and the Greyhounds still not 100% sure who their head coach will be for the rest of the season. Former JV coach Josh Reaves has assumed the role and is said to be the recommendation going before the MLSD Board tonight, but as of Friday night, he still wore the interim” tag. They say, though, that a wounded animal is dangerous, and the Hounds proved to be just that for a half before the West Union high impact run and gun offense took its toll in the second half.
“Hats off to those Manchester kids, they played so hard the whole game,” said Coach Himes in the postgame. “They’ve faced a lot of adversity lately and they came out and played right with us that first half. Our kids just kept playing and things went our way in the second half.”
“We emphasize every day in practice that we need to pass the ball quickly and get to the rim and we did a good job of that tonight. We just try to work hard on defense and outwork the other team every night.”
Much as the preceding girls game between the two schools had done, the three-point goal ruled the way early with four of the game’s first six baskets coming from long distance, Manchester from Jamie Combs and Tanner Utterback twice and West Union from Garrett Vogler. A three-point play by Ryan Rothwell along with another Vogler trey was part of a 7-0 run that gave the Dragons a 17-11 advantage with two minutes to go in the first period.
A matching three-point play by Shaun Gould broke the West Union run and the upstart Greyhounds trailed just 20-18 after the first eight minutes of exciting action.
The two sides traded buckets through the early portion of the second frame, with two scores by the Dragons’ Zane Kingsolver keeping the Dragons on top. A put back basket by Gould cut the West Union lead to 28-27, and when the halftime break came, the Hounds were right there, down just two at 34-32.
Momentum can be a strange thing in high school basketball and after the intermission, mighty “mo” went straight to the Dragons and never left their side. Running up and down the floor with wild abandon and playing their unselfish style, the West Union boys opened the second half with a 10-2 run, capped by a McCarty trey that moved the lead to double digits in the blink of an eye at 44-34.
The Hounds temporarily rebounded with a pair of Utterback baskets, but that was as close as they would be the rest of the game. A “basket and one” by McCarty was the beginning og a game-clinching 22-2 run for the Dragons, getting contributions on both ends from, including another three-point play from McCarty, and as the third quarter came to a close with the West Union faithful on their feet showing their appreciation, the shell shocked Hounds found themselves now staring at a huge 66-43 deficit.
The final eight minutes did nothing to change the outcome as the Dragons outscored the Hounds 18-12 and claimed their spot in the Saturday final with the 84-55 triumph.
The win was a total team effort for the Dragons (4-3) as they had five players hit double figures in the scoring column, led by McCarty’s 24 points with Rothwell adding 21. Vogler scored 14, Kingsolver 13, and Bowan Tomlin 10. With the big second half, the Dragons shot a sizzling 66% from the field and 71% from the charity stripe, including 88% from the field in a big 32-point third quarter.
“Our kids are great kids and they like each other and get along on and off the court,” said Coach Himes. “They play together very well and I really loved the way they played tonight.”
Manchester (2-7) got a season-high 18 points from Shaun Gould, with Utterback and Gage Lucas each chipping in 12. The Greyhounds shot 41% for the game, 57% from the foul line.
18 14 11 12—55
20 14 32 18 –84
Manchester (55): Gould 18, Utterback 12, Lucas 12, Combs 2, Calvert 2, , Bilyeu 2, Pennywitt 1, Dryden 2, Ricketts 2, Francis 2
W. Union (84): McCarty 24, Rothwell 21, Vogler 14, Kingsolver 13, Tomlin 10, Fuller 2