Knights fend off Titans in a thrill ride for third straight win

Jacob Goudy and Braden Biggs take the battle into the paint

The West Holmes Knights boys basketball team seems to be getting the hang of this winning stuff.

After equaling their win totals from the previous two seasons in their first two games this year, the Knights took on a talented Triway team in the Dungeon at West Holmes High School on Tuesday, Dec. 5, and the winning ways continued for Keith Troyer’s crew as they fashioned a heart-pounding 53-50 win that wasn’t over until the game’s final shot at the buzzer.

Most people expect the Titans and Knights to produce exciting games when these two rivals get together, and this one certainly did nothing to disappoint. From start to finish, neither team boasted a lead of more than eight points as the two teams traded buckets, played hard-nosed defense and entertained the crowd.

“These close games are the ones you have to learn to win,” West Holmes coach Keith Troyer said. “For the past two or three years, we haven’t won these kinds of games, so it was good to see.”

Led by Gabe Walker, the Titans jumped out to a quick five-point lead, but that lead wouldn’t last for long as Chase Wells would help West Holmes battle back to tie things up at 9-9. While Triway would lead just one more time thereafter, the two teams would never be far away from one another in the scoring column.

Chase Wells hit a jumper before freshman Peyton McKinney’s short baseline jumper at the buzzer gave the Knights a 15-11 advantage through one.

Bryce Myers’ layup put West Holmes ahead 19-15, but Triway answered with two Walker free throws and a score inside from Matt Falkenberg, and the game was again tied at 19.

West Holmes pushed its lead to 27-20 when Chance Wells hit a free throw and a jumper, Chase Wells scored on a drive, and Myers nailed a 3-pointer around a Walker free throw. Walker hit one more charity toss before the half, and West Holmes held a 27-21 lead.

The Titans stormed out of the locker room to forge their final lead of the game. Bryce Biggs scored, and after Chase Wells’ drive, Braden Biggs hit a free throw, Bo Flinner canned a triple and Triway took a 30-29 lead on Bryce Biggs’ three-ball.

That lead lasted 17 seconds. Chance Wells drained a long 3-pointer to get West Holmes the lead at 32-30. Braden Biggs quickly tied the score at 32, and the battle for victory was on.

Tied at 36, Jacob Goudy gave the Knights the edge by two with a score inside, and then after a stop, Chase Wells dribbled the clock down and juked his way into the paint for a pull-up jumper that found the mark to give the Knights a 40-36 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

The Knights would then get six points from Chase Wells, who seemed to be everywhere, and West Holmes had its largest lead at 46-38, but that lead would be short-lived.

“I thought for the most part we have made good decisions so far, but tonight I thought we didn’t make good decisions as far as when we had the lead,” Troyer said.

Trailing 48-42 with around four minutes to play, Walker would connect on a pair of free throws. Myers would then launch a three that went down in and popped out, and the Titans trimmed the deficit to two at 48-46 on a layup from Braden Biggs.

Triway got another stop but committed a turnover before Myers launched another rainbow three-ball, and this one found nothing but net to push the lead back to five at 51-46. Again, Triway would battle back, getting single free throws from Walker and Braden Biggs, who made his with 1:35 to play to make it 51-48. The Titans then fouled Shane Jones, who missed the front end of a one-and-one. With a chance to tie, Triway got three straight cracks at 3-pointers but missed and kept getting rebounds. Finally, Walker drove the baseline and made a layup to trim West Holmes’ lead to 51-50 with 20 seconds to play.

West Holmes then wisely inbounded the ball to Chase Wells, who was fouled with 18 seconds to play. Wells has made big shots throughout the Knights’ three games, but none more so than these two critical free throws, which he calmly drilled to put the Knights up by three at 53-50.

“I knew it was a pressure situation, and I had to concentrate and make them for the team,” Wells said of the free throws. “I just wanted to get it done.”

While the mechanics of shooting a free throw may be the same every time, the added pressure of knowing a game is on the line changes everything. “Oh yeah, there is definitely a difference,” Wells said with a grin, understanding the magnitude of what he had done. “The game is on the line.”

With plenty of time left, Triway worked the ball around for an open three, but Goudy alertly stepped in the passing lane and made a huge steal with five seconds to play. He was immediately fouled, but he too missed the front end, giving the Titans one final crack at tying the game. Walker rebounded the miss, dribbled toward mid-court and fired a pass to Flinner on the left side of the floor just outside the arc. Flinner turned and launched a three that glanced off the front of the iron, bringing an end to this intense battle.

“Without a time-out, we found a way to get a good look at the end, so I was happy about that. But we didn’t execute well throughout the four quarters, and I told the guys we didn’t deserve to win,” Titans coach Ben Holt said. “But when you look at it, and you don’t meet many of your goals for the game, and you’re still only giving up 53, we’re right there. If we executed 75 percent of the game instead of 25 or 30, that’s the difference.”

Triway caused West Holmes all kinds of problems inside, led by Walker, who was a dynamic presence inside all night for the Titans. Holt said they knew they had a key advantage in the paint, and that was the game plan coming in.

“When you have guys that go eat glass, we knew we had an advantage there,” Holt said. “We also knew they had great guard play that was going to balance that out. Give Chase Wells credit for hitting those shots. He’s a tough player.”

Walker wreaked havoc in the paint, snaring nine rebounds while causing all kinds of trouble for the Knights on offense. His 22-point night included 14 free throw attempts.

“Walker’s the real deal,” Troyer said of the Triway senior. “He is hard to stop, but I thought we did a better job on him in the second half.”

Braden Biggs hauled in a game-high 10 rebounds and added eight points as the Titans forged a huge 30-16 edge on the glass. Bryce Biggs added eight points while Flinner added seven points.

After looking great from beyond the arc in its first two games, West Holmes cooled considerably in this one, making just 4-of-21. However, Chase Wells proved to be the difference, using dribble penetration to score a game-high 26 points. The senior captain said he didn’t care how many points he scored as long as his team turned in a win.

Chase Wells got help with Chance Wells pitching in 11 points and Myers tacking on 10, his third straight game scoring in double figures. While the Knights struggled from downtown, they did well inside the arc, making 17-of-29 action shots.

Goudy ended the night with four points, three rebounds and the huge steal, but he had to assume a large role when West Holmes big men Jones and Ethan Kinsey got into foul trouble.

“Jacob came in and did a really nice job for us,” Troyer said. “He grabbed a couple big rebounds and came up with a really big steal.”

Holt said despite his team’s lack of execution, there were positives to take away from the loss. “For the most part I’m not upset we gave up 53 points,” Holt said. “That is our game goal every time we play. We just have to find a way to execute better. We have to find a way to get better.”

While the Titans dropped to 1-1, the Knights improved to 3-0 as they continue the huge turn-around from last year’s 2-20 campaign. Troyer said much of that comes from his team’s willingness to lay it on the line every night out.

Chase Wells agreed. “This is a different situation than what it has been the past couple of years,” he said. “I feel like we come into practice more energetic and more intense, and we play with more energy, and we play as a team. We’re not selfish, and we don’t care who shoots the ball. We hustle all the time.”

Troyer said the Knights have talked all summer and into the season about how this year’s version of the Knights is a very different team than the past couple of years.

He then said they know they can’t rest on their laurels, and it is only three games in what is a long season.

“There’s still la lot of things to work on,” Troyer said. “We have to continue to learn how to make better decisions, but our hustle and desire to play hard-nosed for four quarters overcomes a lot of mistakes you make. Tonight that showed because we made our fair share of mistakes. We’ll just keep plugging away.”

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