West Hall boys coach Warren Sellers said he expected some sort of letdown after his team let a 26-point lead slip away less than 24 hours earlier. Fortunately for the Spartans, it only lasted about a half.
West Hall overcame a spirited Chestatee effort Tuesday and emerged with a 66-60 win in the consolation round of the Lanierland Tournament at Chestatee High.
On Monday, the Spartans held a big lead against Gainesville before falling apart in the fourth quarter. Sellers said Tuesday’s win was needed for the process of rebuilding his team’s confidence.
“This was the first step toward stopping the bleeding from (Monday),” he said. “It was a game we had to get through and we knew Chestatee would play us tough.”
Thanks to big games from Kealan Passmore and Cole Morgan, the War Eagles (1-9) pushed the favored Spartans (8-3) for the full four quarters.
Chestatee led by as many as 12 points early in the second quarter as Passmore and Morgan drained shot after shot, and the War Eagles gave the Spartans fits with their half-court trap.
Passmore scored 18 of his game-high 25 points in the first half and tallied all five of his steals before halftime.
Chestatee forced 12 first-half turnovers and had West Hall in foul trouble early but weren’t able to take advantage of it at the free throw line.
“We were 11 of 24 at the foul line and we can’t afford that when we’re trying to pull off an upset,” Chestatee coach Gary Barnes said. “But that was one of the best games we’ve played all year. We’re young and inexperienced and we’re playing one of the best teams in the area, so I’m proud of our effort.”
Reserve forward Rico Jones jump-started the Spartans in the second quarter, when he scored all 11 of his points in a quick flurry that included three straight 3-pointers.From there, West Hall dialed up the aggressiveness with a full-court press.
“That was kind of a calculated risk because both (starting guards) Jarquise (Young) and Dre (Pou) were in foul trouble,” Sellers said. “So we rolled the dice a little bit and it paid off.”
Chestatee led 38-33 at the half, but West Hall’s quickness in the frontcourt began to take its toll on both ends of the floor as Young and Pou forced turnovers on defense and spurred the offense with dribble penetration in the third quarter.
Young scored nine of his 15 points in the second half and Pou hit his last four field goal attempts to finish with 14 points. Shunquez Stephens led the team with 16 points and eight rebounds.
Stephens tied the game for the first time on a jumper midway through the third quarter and Pou gave the Spartans their first lead shortly after.
From there, it was a back-and-forth affair until West Hall gained some separation in the final three minutes.
“We executed a little better in the second half,” Sellers said, “But give Chestatee credit; they hit some shots and really stepped their game up today.”
Morgan finished with 23 points for Chestatee.
West Hall finishes its tournament at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday against the winner of Tuesday’s Lakeview-Johnson game. Chestatee will face Lakeview Academy at 1:30 p.m. Both games will be at West Hall.
JOHNSON BOYS 76, LAKEVIEW ACADEMY 66: Led by 33 points from Matt Hollis, the Knights won Tuesday at Chestatee.
Ty Odem (12 points) and Jalen Bowen (11) were the only other Knights in double figures.
Austin Pearson scored 14 points and Jackson Wells added 10 for Lakeview Academy.
Lakeview will face Chestatee at 1:30 p.m. and Johnson will face West Hall at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at West Hall in both teams' final games of the tournament.