It takes a full 32 minutes but Titans hang on to defeat Knights 51-50

Trenton Bridenthal hounds Nick Sparr. The Titans won a squeaker in The Pit

When West Holmes traveled to Triway to take on the Titans in The Pit, one of two things was going to happen. One, one of these teams that are trying to grow up on the fly was going to leave with a win. Two, like most Titans versus Knights games, this one would be a barn-burner.


It took every single tenth-of-a-second of the 32-minute game to determine a winner, but Triway was able to finally breath easy with its 51-50 win only after the Knights had one final crack with less than one second to play.


For the Knights, the evening could not have started out an worse. As was the case in their opener against Orrville, West Holmes fell woefully behind in the early going, this time allowing Triway to get out to a scorching 11-0 start that put the Knights behind the eight ball. The two main culprits were West Holmes’ defense, or lack thereof, and Gabe Walker’s scoring acumen. Walker popped in seven quick points to ignite the Titans’ early run, and he kept it up throughout the night, scoring a game-high 23 points.


“They gave me some room defensively, and that gave me a lot of options on driving or kicking it back out for open shots,” Walker said. He consistently got to the free throw line with an assortment of moves to get by defenders, and made a killing at the charity stripe. As for his impressive performance from the free throw line, Walker said he has improved immensely in that department from a year ago, and said he felt confident getting to the charity stripe as much as possible on the evening.


“That’s two games in a row that we spotted teams to a huge lead and made it tough on ourselves,” West Holmes coach Keith Troyer said. “We gave up too many easy bucket. We struggled with rotations and you can’t let people drive the length of the floor and make lay-ups.”


Trailing 11-0, West Holmes called a quick time-out and began to try to right the ship. They did it via the long ball, with Brayden Chaney knocking down his team’s first triple, and freshman Chance Wells dropping in a pair to trim the deficit to 15-9 through the first quarter.


West Holmes seemed poised to get all the way back early in the second quarter, when Connor Roach scored on a stick-back and Chase Wells drove the lane to trim the deficit to 18-15, but the Titans went on a monster 10-0 run to take a 28-15 lead. That run was aided by the efforts of Nick Sparr and Braden Biggs, and it took a pair of Chase Wells free throws to stem the tide. At the half the Titans held a 33-21 edge, but Chance Wells made short work of that lead by dropping in two more triples, the second one cutting the Triway lead to 36-32.


Triway’s lead was just two as time wound down to end the third, but Walker hammered his way through traffic as time ran down, and banked home a twisting runner to beat the clock to give the Titans a 42-38 edge.


An and-one by Walker to start the fourth and a pair of free throws from Sparr inched the Titans back up by nine at 47-38, but then big Josh Goudy finally got involved with the Knights offense. Goudy scored inside off a great pass from Chaney and hit a put-back, and Chase Wells grabbed a steal and went the length of the court, and the Knights were back in business, trialing just 47-44.


West Holmes had multiple chances to trim that lead or even tie it, but failed to capitalize, and eventually Biggs made a key play, getting a steal and scoring on the drive to lift Triway to a 49-44 lead.


But Roach scored on a put-back and was fouled. He missed, but Goudy grabbed the board and stuck it back in, and suddenly West Holmes was as close as it had been all night, trailing 49-48.


With time winding down, Sparr made a huge play, grabbing a miss and sticking it back in for a 51-48 lead, but Roach drove for a score to make it 51-50. An ill-advised shot and miss by Triway gave the Knights hope with just under 30 seconds to play. They held the ball out front, then kicked it into the top of the key, where Chaney found Roach at the free throw line. Roach made a nice move down the lane, went up, and amidst a bevy of flying bodies and arms, his shot from in tight hit backboard and rim, before finding the hands of Walker.


“We drew that play up and we got exactly what we wanted to get,” Troyer said. “We just didn’t get a call there.”


With 2.3 seconds to play, Walker missed the front end of the one-and-one, and West Holmes rebounded and got to mid-court, where they called timeout with 0.7 seconds to play.


That was when Sanderson played a head game.


“We went out the first time to defend in a zone, then we called timeout, “Sanderson said. “When we went back out, we went to a zone. We’ve got a lanky 6-foot, 4-inch kid in Jordan Stokes on the ball, and it worked out because they had a much shorter Blaine Hager inbounding the ball.”


With the clock working against them, West Holmes tried in vain to find an opening, but Hager’s pass found Sparr, who tucked it, along with the win, away.


Sanderson said he told his team they should celebrate the win, because he knew West Holmes would come hard and come to play. At the same time, he noted that he felt his team needed to get tougher, get smarter and put teams away when they have a chance.


“That start was a huge part of the game, and it was exactly what we talked about doing before the game,” Sanderson said. “But we have to do a better job of sustaining that.”


Sanderson was referring to allowing young Chance Wells to show off his shooting touch from downtown, where he went 4-of-8 to help the Knights creep back into contention.


“We lost our focus on keeping an eye on him,” Sanderson said of Wells. “We got caught looking away, or not seeing the ball, and he can really shoot it. He hit too many shots, and we have to do a better job defending that. We are looking for kids to step up in positions that they haven’t been in before, and it is going to be an ongoing thing this season, because we don’t have any seniors. We have a lot to do in terms of executing and finishing at the end of quarters, and I’ll take responsibility for that. We’re still finding our way.”


Troyer said the fact that his team allowed just 18 second-half points was hugely encouraging and something they can build on.


The second half we did a much better job of containing defensively, and we limited them to just one shot,” Troyer said. “We also did a better job of getting Josh (Goudy) more involved in the flow of the offense, which is something we have to make sure we do. But we simply can’t afford to put ourselves in the position we have the first two games.”


The win improves Triway to 1-1, while West Holmes falls to 0-2 on the young season.

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