OAKWOOD — There was no way Shunquez Stephens was going to let West Hall lose to its rivals on Tuesday night.
The sophomore big man did everything for the Spartans, especially down the stretch, and ended with a game-high 19 points, 14 rebounds, four steals and three blocks in West Hall’s 58-54 win over its crosstown rivals.
“It was great, but common for him,” Spartans coach Warren Sellers said of Stephens. “He took over for two minutes and he uses his big body really well.”
Those two minutes came at the start of the fourth quarter with West Hall (18-4, 4-3 Region 7B-AAA) trailing Johnson (10-10, 2-5) by two points.
First, Stephens tied the game at 49 off a nice touch pass from Kavon Williams. Then he put back his own miss, made a free throw and completed his personal 7-2 scoring run with a baby hook in the lane to give the Spartans a 54-51 lead with 3:55 remaining.
After Brandon Finch cut the lead to two, Stephens all but sealed the win by rejecting a Devaris Finch shot with 1:02 left.
“I just came out with the mind set to work my hardest,” said the 6-foot-4 sophomore. “Whether it was scoring, rebounding or blocking shots, I wanted to do whatever I had to do.”
His dominating performance in the fourth quarter was all apart of West Hall’s plan. After starting the game shooting 50 percent from the field, the Spartans shot just 10-for-34 (29-percent) in the second and third quarters and knew if they were to win the game they would have to get the ball inside.
“That’s an adjustment we made,” said Sellers, who saw his team’s 12-point lead disappear in the third quarter. “We were getting good looks, but the shots weren’t falling.”
They were for Johnson, and the tandem of Finch and Grant Cagle, who combined for 23 points — including four 3-pointers by Cagle — in the second and third quarters. Finch ended the game with 15 points, while Cagle added 12.
Cagle’s final 3-pointer gave Johnson — whose first lead came with 3:41 left in the third — a two-point lead heading into the final quarter.
But Johnson quickly saw that lead diminish due to the play of Stephens, and the intense defensive effort by Williams (15 points), Terrell Penland and Jarquise Young, who flustered Johnson’s ballhandlers in the fourth quarter.
“I felt at the end that we didn’t do what we needed to do,” said Knights coach Jeff Steele, whose team has lost five straight. “I’m encouraged that we competed for a change, but it’s still pretty disappointing because it’s the little things that keep getting us beat.”
One of those little things was rebounding, as West Hall recorded 12 offensive rebounds (five by Stephens) compared to Johnson’s seven. For the game, the Spartans outrebounded Johnson 40-29, with nine rebounds coming from Rodney Gibson, who also scored 14 points.
“We’re playing better right now,” said Sellers, whose team has won three straight. “February basketball is different, and it was good to get a tough win over a good ball club.”
West Hall plays host to Flowery Branch at 8:30 p.m. Friday. Johnson visits West Forsyth at 8:30 p.m. Friday.
West Hall girls 41, Johnson 28
Bailey Soucie scored a game-high 16 points to lead the Lady Spartans to a win over their crosstown rivals on Tuesday in Oakwood.
Soucie and fellow guard Emily Hammond keyed the West Hall’s (7-9, 3-3 Region 7B-AAA) defense with a combined nine steals.
Jayla Moon scored 10 points for West Hall.
After building an early lead, Johnson (0-17, 0-6) fell behind in the second quarter thanks to a 19-6 run by West Hall.
Johnson cut the deficit to 10 points three times in the fourth quarter.
The Lady Knights were led by Shelley Farley’s 11 points and Caitlin Sloan, who pulled down nine rebounds.