Weird win for Westville
WESTVILLE — From the final score (26-24), to the confusion that surrounded the deciding points, to the unlikely leading scorer, it was a bizarre Senior Night win for Westville on Friday against South Central.
Where to begin? Let’s start with the play that led to Jace Woods’ winning free throws with 3.2 seconds left.
South Central was working for a last-second shot in a tie game when Josh DeChantal took a charge from Zack Christy with 6.2 seconds left. After a timeout, S.C. Jake Osburn fouled Woods, believing the Satellites had a foul to give.
Turns out they didn’t.
“We didn’t account for the technical foul as a team foul,” South Central coach Joe Wagner said of a fourth-quarter sequence in which each team was assessed a dead ball T. “There was a miscommunication. I thought we had a foul to give so we used it. It would have been a smart play on our part if we had five team fouls, we had six and we put their best shooter on the line. We talk about being accountable all the time and that’s solely on me, nobody else. It kills me for our players.”
The mixup wasn’t just with the Satellites side. The scoreboard only had them for five fouls prior to the play.
“That’s what I thought, too,” Woods said. “I heard their coach say he was going to foul me, so I was just prepping to protect the ball. I think there was confusion with the technical foul.”
Westville coach Drew Eubank was surprised S.C. fouled as his bench had it six fouls.
“It might’ve been beneficial for (Woods) to not think he had game-winning free throws coming up because he’s struggled at the line before tonight,” Eubank said. “Those were as big as they get. We knew they had six. I didn’t realize the board said five until I looked up. That’s unfortunate if we were wrong.”
Christy’s running 30-footer was well off the mark at the horn, the final miss on a night of many. Westville (10-11, 4-3 Porter County Conference) shot 7 of 38, including 5 of 20 from 3, while S.C. was 9 of 31 and 2 of 13 from deep.
“I told these guys after the game that South Central defends in the half court as well as anyone you’ll play,” Eubank said. “They’re really good at taking away what you want to do. They made us get into parts of our offense we don’t have to explore very often. When they came back on us, we panicked a little bit and looked for quick shots instead of good shots. That was all their defense. Every guy on that team knows what they do well and what they don’t do well. They play their role really well. They’re a really well-coached basketball team that as they get further into their system, they’re going to be really tough. All it takes to defend is mental toughness and they’re a mentally tough team.”
South Central managed just eight first-half points, but only trailed by seven as Westville wasn’t much better.
“We want to be patient but there wasn’t a whole lot of aggressiveness,” Wagner said. “We worked a ton against zone the last couple days. At times, our movement was good, but we’re still an immature basketball team in terms of finding consistency, doing it every possession. As ugly as it is, those are the type of games we have to play in order to compete for a sectional championship and beyond. We can’t play games in the 50, 60s and 70s.”
S.C. crept in front late in the third on a Christy drive at 18-17 for its only lead. Westville, which missed all 12 of its shots in that quarter, was buoyed by a pair of 3s to open the fourth by senior reserve Brayden Qualkenbush, a 1.2 points per game scorer who finished with a career-high nine points.
“It felt good,” Qualkenbush said. “I just want to thank the community, the fans, my team for giving me the ball. I’m glad I could make a few. I don’t think they were respecting me. Now they’ve got to.”
Qualkenbush, who drew the start and opened the scoring with a trey, had two triples for the season coming into the game.
“His shot’s been coming along here lately,” Eubank said. “He’s been hitting more in games. I think just being in the starting five knowing he needed to be a shooter, he had confidence in himself and it carried over throughout the game. A lot of time, he’s playing a big, but with that lineup, he was playing a guard. He was ready to go. It is surprising when Elliot (Bogart) does it. We know Brayden can shoot. We see it in practice every day. I’m really happy for him. Our seniors had a good start to the game.”
Brendan Carr led S.C. (3-18, 1-6) with seven points and eight rebounds.
“We’ve had a rough season win-loss wise, but over a four-month span, they bust their tails every single day, they take it seriously, they care,” Wagner said. “Defensively, we executed what we wanted to get done perfectly. We held (Josh) DeChantal and Woods to nine points total. No question when you give up 26 points you should win a game. I’m proud of their grit and toughness. At the same time, we’ve got to get better.”
Westville 26, South Central 24
Westville’s Brayden Qualkenbush led all scorers with nine points on three 3s.