CHARLESTON, W.Va. — No. 4 Westside sank its first nine shots and built a 15-point lead, but it was the free throws they made at the end that saved the Renegades in the Class AA quarterfinals.
After No. 5 Bridgeport pulled within three points in the fourth quarter, Westside made 7-of-9 from the line to prevail 65-58 on Wednesday night.
“In tight situations we really like to come together as a team,” said Corey Bowles after producing 22 points and eight rebounds for Westside (20-6). “That really helps us pull through in those moments.”
The moments turned tense in the late stages after Bridgeport (18-8) nearly rallied from a 31-16 second-quarter hole.
“There was not one time that I doubted that we would be back in the game, because of how hard we play,” Bridgeport coach Mike Robey said. “My kids have such big hearts. I feel bad for them, because I thought we left everything out on the floor.”
The Indians made it competitive by forcing 15 Westside turnovers and committing only seven. But 1-of-13 shooting from 3-point range and a 43-26 rebounding deficit doomed the Indians, who got 24 points from John Wilfong.
Westside guard Will Fox narrowly missed a triple-double with 17 points 10 assists and eight rebounds in 29 minutes.
“It was a solid game—I didn’t realize he was two rebounds away from a triple-double,” said his coach Nick Cook. “That was the most solid all-around game that I’ve ever seen down here.”
Justin Cogar also delivered for the Renegades with 17 points and 12 rebounds.
“We’ve been through a lot, and we’re battle tested,” Cogar said. “We just know how to react in that (late-game) situation, and I think that’s what helped us tonight.”
The rebounding margin was a big reason Westside never trailed.
“That’s one of our goals going into every game,” Cook said. “Everybody talks about that we’re smaller than everyone else, but as long is Cogar is right there, I’m not going to worry about it.”
Ryan Sprouse scored 10 points for Bridgeport but admitted he had his hands full against Cogar: ”You have to tip your hat to a kid like that. He’s not the tallest kid down here, but he’s very aggressive and physical. He had some big baskets for them down the stretch.”
Dante Bonamico finished with 14 points and seven rebounds for Bridgeport, which despite struggling from 3 still managed to shoot 42 percent overall.
“I came out and hit my first jump shot and I felt real good,” Bonamico said. “I got to the basket and that opens up stuff a lot. My teammates really opened up a lot by setting screens for me and getting nice jumpers.”
Westside advanced to Friday’s 1 p.m. semifinal where a rematch with Robert C. Byrd awaits. Cook sounded grateful his team would have a day to recover after being pushed by Bridgeport.
“We came out real strong and set the tone tonight,” Cook said. “But give (Bridgeport) credit—they did some things that kind of frustrated us. The kids were able to fight through it and get the win.”