Wolverines Sneak by Marriotts Ridge in Overtime Thriller
Western Tech overcomes slow start by implementing an overwhelming full court press after halftime. Several players step up in decisive overtime period.
Western Tech head coach Mike Slepesky believes his team thrives off of energy.
Monday night against Marriotts Ridge (Howard County), the Wolverines needed every last drop of energy to secure a 72-69 victory that included a scorer's table controversy, bench warnings and a wild overtime finish.
All five Western Tech players (who began the overtime) tallied at least one point in the extra frame, including a stretch of five straight from junior forward Andre Jackson—who netted a team-high 20 points on the night.
The Wolverines may not have needed the overtime period had a made foul shot early in the third quarter not been mistakenly taken away.
Nevertheless, Western Tech (6-3) persevered as a team.
Individually, forward Keith Crowell fought through his own adversity, scoring all of his 12 points in the second half and overtime after being blanked through the first two quarters.
With the Wolverines down 57-54 and around a minute to play, Crowell, a junior, canned a free throw and scored on a put back in the lane to send the game to overtime.
After Marriotts Ridge (4-8) grabbed a two point advantage to begin the OT, Western Tech answered right back when junior James Handy buried a three pointer from the corner—his first points of the game.
“The three is like a dagger,” Slepesky said. “Right out of the gate he was able to set the tone. Our bench stands up and the crowd goes wild. He provided a big spark in overtime.”
The Mustangs tied the game 60-60 with a free throw on the other end, but again the sparingly used Handy returned the favor by slicing into the lane from the baseline and earning a trip to the line where he hit one of two.
The Wolverines would never relinquish the lead as Jackson, senior Sam Collins and junior Cory Tabb all hit free throws down the stretch—despite shouts from the opposing bench, meriting a warning from officials—to help salt away the game.
“We just have heart,” said Collins, who netted 16 points on the night. “Everybody stepped up.”
After a rocky start—which included the Mustangs jumping out to an early 8-0 lead—Western Tech finally hit their stride toward the end of the second quarter, trimming the deficit to 28-25 at the break.
The Wolverines exploded out of the gates after the half, amplifying the intensity to the tune of 12 unanswered points in the first minute of play to take a 37-28 lead.
After staying in zone for the majority of the first half, Slepesky had his team switch to a full-court, man-to-man press to open the third quarter.
The decision paid huge dividends.
“As soon as we went to full court [press]…they’re guys would stick around so it gave us the ability to trap and out man them in terms of quickness,” said Slepesky, whose squad caused one 10-second violation and three other turnovers during its 14-3 run to open the half.
“It showed that we were willing to press up and make them feel as if we were the better team,” Slepesky said. “Luckily it worked out. Sometimes it goes to our disadvantage. We pressed in zone and they took us apart. As soon as we went man, they had no answer for it.”
To its credit, Marriotts Ridge fought off an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter to go ahead for the first time in the second half (57-54) before Crowell’s free throw and put back sent the game to overtime.
However, the Wolverines suffocating press and persistence on the glass—defensive and offensive—proved to be too much.
“I’ve never been in an overtime game at Western Tech,” Collins said. “When we play defense we are one of the most unstoppable teams.”
The Wolverines, now having won three games in a row, will look to continue their streak on the road against Eastern Tech, Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.