West Holmes started strong and finished strong in posting a 62-52 triumph over Lexington in an Ohio Cardinal Conference clash Saturday in the Dungeon.
The Knights showed no signs of fatigue after back-to-back nights of action. And they needed every ounce of energy, as Lexington brought an intensity that required 32 minutes of action.
The Knights jumped out to a 19-10 lead after the opening eight minutes of action behind Brady Arnold. The junior sparkplug ignited a 13-2 run, turning three steals into layups after busting a 3-pointer to start the game. He scored nine of his 22 points in the first quarter.
"He's such a solid player. He's one of those guys you hope to contain, because you know you're not going to stop him," first-year Lexington coach Scott Hamilton said.
The Minutemen closed to within four points (48-44) midway through the fourth quarter, but Gabe Snyder scored inside.
The Knights' defense forced a miss and then Grant Hay split a pair of free throws to make it 51-44.
Again, the defense came up big with a steal and coast-to-coast layup by Michael Dewitt.
And then another bucket inside by Brock Macaulay helped the Knights seal the victory down the stretch.
"That's the sign of a veteran team at this point," West Holmes coach Jim Lindeman said. "There's not a lot of nervousness. Guys know what they're supposed to do. It's just a matter of executing. Fortunately, we were able to execute down the stretch.
"We know Lexington is extremely disciplined and very well coached, and that it was going to be a tough night coming off our opening night where we spent a lot of energy and a lot of emotion," Lindeman added. "I thought the first quarter, we did exactly what we wanted to do, but we weren't able to sustain that type of physical intensity the whole course of the game. That's something we've got to work on."
The Knights looked more like the West Holmes playoff football team in the second quarter, when they were being whistled right and left for fouls away from the basket.
"We've got to adjust to the referees," Lindeman said. "We committed some fouls 50 feet from the bucket. They had 26 points in the first half and 15 of them came from the foul line, and they weren't even shooting fouls. They were fouls out on the floor. You put a good foul shooting team like that on the line and that keeps them in the game. That's really what got Lex a little bit of oomph to make a run at us."
The Minutemen pulled even at 23-23 late in the second quarter before West Holmes closed the first half on an 8-3 run spurred by an Arnold 3-pointer and Macaulay's tip-in at the buzzer that gave the hosts a 31-26 lead.
Snyder, one of three Knights to score in double figures with 12 points, went to the bench for most of the second quarter after picking up three fouls, but came back strong in the second half.
"When a team sees one of your better players off the floor, it gives them a lift," Lindeman said. "But I was impressed with the way he came back in the second half. He did a lot of good things for us and made his presence known at that point."
Snyder scored six inside and Dewitt drained a 3-pointer to help the Knights open up a 44-36 lead after three quarters.
Snyder and Macaulay (12 points) dominated inside in the fourth quarter as well, as Macaulay scored on the first two trips down the floor to answer Lexington buckets.
But the Minutemen were unable to finish strong, while West Holmes closed the door on the visitors, who dropped to 2-2 on the season, 1-1 in the OCC.
"This was our fourth game; we lost one by two, we won one by four and we won by two last night. We've been in some battles," Hamilton said. "We put ourselves in some holes before. I think that's something we're getting used to, fighting for all four quarters.
"We wanted to be up for this game," he added. "They've got a lot of guys with a lot of experience. We knew they'd be a tough game at home. They're picked to be one of the top two teams in the OCC with Mansfield Senior. We did not take them lightly. "