When the first time these teams squared off, Westland came into the game undefeated and overly confident. After a 64-53 loss on Dec. 14th, the Cougars had been patiently waiting to get revenge on the Cardinals on their home floor. That is exactly what happened tonight.
In a game of runs, Westland would prevail 62-57. Led in scoring by guards Kersey Long (19 points) and KyJuan Grace (15 points), the Cougars gave the guard oriented Cardinals trouble on the perimeter all night long. Will Hill and Lance Leslie led the Cardinals in scoring, combining for 27 points, 12 less than what they scored in their previous matchup with the Cougars.
Long was matched up with Hill for the majority of the game, and did to him what he had done to Mike Wells earlier in the week. Long and Grace’s 34 points, combined with Cory Beesler’s 12 would help the Cougars neutralize the scoring duo of Hill and Leslie. Falling behind 21-14 midway through the second quarter, Westland would claw their way back, thanks to a 7-0 run led by Long.
Going into halftime leading 27-24, Westland traded punches with Thomas Worthington throughout the third quarter. Although JJ Smith had another stellar night on the boards, the Cougars had problems blocking out on the defensive end, leading to offensive rebounds and second chance points for the Cardinals.
After a 4-0 Thomas run at the end of the third quarter, the Cougars found themselves in a very close game, something they haven’t been accustomed to as of late. With the game tied at 51 with three minutes to go, the Cougars showed to everyone in the gym just what they were made of. In his last game of the season, Devan Williamson connected with a cutting Grace for an easy layup to give Westland the lead with 2:31 remaining. On the next trip down the floor, Long weaved in and out of traffic en route to a three-point play, giving the Cougars a 56-51 advantage with just under two minutes to go. Thomas would never come within three points for the remainder of the game as Westland sank crucial free throws to secure the win.
With the victory, Westland improves to 13-2, heading into the toughest stretch of the season. The Cougars are home vs. Hilliard Davidson on Tuesday, but the true test awaits when Westland travels to league leading Olentangy Liberty on Feb. 1st. Without one of their most exciting players in Williamson, it will be intriguing to see who will step up for the Cougars in his absence. Westland controls their own destiny in the OCC-Central from here on out, and it’s up to them to determine if their dreams will be manifested.
Written by: Zach Fleer / @YS614