WEST POINT — After his New Hope girls basketball team rallied to beat West Point in dramatic fashion Tuesday, Trojans coach Nick Christy suggested that boys coach Drew McBrayer did not want an equally close game against the Green Wave boys.
“If it is, Coach won’t be happy,” Christy said.
It was, and he wasn’t.
The Trojans led throughout but had to fend off a fourth-quarter surge to hold off the Green Wave 59-58 in a Class 5A, Region 1 game in West Point.
“I thought that was one of the worst performances we’ve had in about three years, maybe longer than that,” McBrayer said. “We mentally shut down and allowed them to dictate to us the tempo of the game, and we lost our cool. And that’s not New Hope basketball, and that’s exactly what I told them when I walked out of that locker room just now.”
Each team had three players in double figures, with New Hope’s LJ Hackman posting a game-high 18 points. Thirteen of them came during the first half, when the Trojans took a 36-26 lead. That lead grew before the Green Wave started whittling away at it, partly because of their hustle and physical play and partly because New Hope didn’t look quite like New Hope.
“We turned it over entirely too much, we took bad shots, we let the physical play dictate to us what the basketball game was like, and with a 14-point lead in the third quarter you can’t do that,” McBrayer said.
That 14-point lead was down to 50-44 by the end of the third, and West Point kept creeping closer. Three minutes into the fourth, that lead was cut in half again on a 3-pointer by Elijah Young, who shared scoring honors for the Green Wave with Rodricuz Collins, each netting 17 points.
The lead stretched back to six on a free throw from Hackman and a layup by Caleb Parr, but MJ Smith got the home fans fired up on a dunk off of a pass from Kobe Bush and had them roaring again on a layup after a strong baseline move to cut the lead to 55-53.
A missed layup on a coast-to-coast drive turned into a foul on the Trojans, putting the Green Wave in the double bonus. Lebron Lewis nailed both free throws to tie the game at 55-55 with 2:43 left.
But West Point never got over the hump. Parr put back his own miss to give the visitors a 2-point edge, then a goaltending call on West Point made it 59-55. Collins his the second of two free throws with 23 seconds left to make it a one-possession game, and Bush cut the lead to a point with 9 seconds left on a layup after a steal.
West Point had a chance to win the game when a battle for a rebound that went to the floor led to a New Hope traveling call, but the Green Wave could not convert.
“We didn’t do a lot of things very well tonight,” McBrayer said. “I’m just glad we figured out a way to win in the end, because this was a game that could have gone either way the way we played.”
McBrayer said it was the third consecutive game that has been in the fifties for the normally high-octane Trojans. But the first two were not a result of poor play, he noted.
“We played Columbus, which is always a physical game, last Friday night, and then we played Choctaw Central on Saturday, which is a really good team, too,” McBrayer said. “Both of them are very methodical offenses, so they were lower-scoring games.”
The Trojans defeated the Falcons 53-50 and the Warriors 56-47.
But Tuesday night was largely about the Trojans not playing their game, and McBrayer said the Green Wave had something to do with that.
“Give them credit,” he said. “They made us do it. They defended the crap out of us, and they made it physical. They dictated to us what they wanted to happen tonight.”
Despite winning, McBrayer was challenged to think of any aspect of the game in which the Trojans did better than the Green Wave.
“Maybe we shot free throws better than them?” he offered, and he was right: Free throw shooting killed West Point. New Hope hit 14 of 17 free throws — although just 1 of 3 during the fourth quarter — while West Point was good on 13 of 27.
Both teams will complete their first trip through the region with home games Friday night. New Hope (12-2, 2-0 5A-1) will face Saltillo, while West Point (8-7, 0-2) will welcome Columbus.