When a team is struggling to find its first victory of the season, there are certain moments that can serve as huge lifts despite not getting as win.
Such was the case for the West Holmes Knights when they traveled to Fairless to take on the Falcons Tuesday, January 3.
While the Knights fell short of victory in the 49-48 loss, the heart they showed in coming back from a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter could go a long way in building some confidence as they seek their first win.
Trailing by 15 early in the fourth quarter, West Holmes played perhaps its best basketball of the season over the final six minutes, erasing all but one of those 15 points. The Knights actually had a chance to win it with three seconds to play. However, a three-quarter court in-bounds pass was picked off by Mason Degler, his interception erasing any hope of completing the amazing comeback.
How the Knights got to the 15-point deficit in the first place was a microcosm of its season to date, as too many turnovers and poor shooting helped put them in a huge hole.
However, during the final six minutes of play, West Holmes showed as much heart and inspiration as it has all season, and nearly pulled off an amazing comeback. The hope for the Knights is that this performance creates a platform for better things to come in the second half of the season.
West Holmes had jumped out to an early 4-0 lead to start the game on the right foot, but six straight points for Fairless gave them a 6-4 advantage. However, the Knights got a Shane Jones free throw, then Chance Wells made a steal and fed Chase Wells for a quick score and Chase Wells hit a jumper to give West Holmes a 9-6 lead after one quarter.
That was when the Falcons dialed it in from downtown. Jack Laney hit a pair of 3-pointers and Justin King added another, and Fairless went from a 15-9 deficit to a 17-15 lead. Blaine Hager scored two on a pair of free throws with just seconds left, but the Knights then allowed Justin Pavlik to get behind them and beat them down the floor to score as time ran out, giving Fairless a 19-17 halftime lead.
While West Holmes’ offense didn’t execute up to par in the first half, it’s defense had proven to be very good, but the third quarter was about to undo everything positive the Knights had working for them.
The first six offensive possessions of the third quarter were about as horrific as the Knights could imagine. That forgettable turn of events saw them fire up one air ball and commit a ghastly five turnovers. However, their defense continued to play well, and allowed only a mason Degler lay-up and a three-ball from Joey Nicolino, and West Holmes trailed just 24-17 after the ugliness subsided.
A triple by Chance Wells brought the Knights to within 24-20, but a 9-2 Falcons run pushed the lead to 33-23. Josh Goudy scored inside for West Holmes, but Nicolino pumped in and and-one to make it 36-25.
Goudy split a pair of free throws, and after Degler scored on another lay-up when he beat West Holmes down the floor, the Knights squandered a couple of opportunities to inch closer when they committed their seventh turnover of what was just an ugly quarter.
Things would get worse for the Knights before they would get better. Trenton Bridenthal hit a free throw to make it 38-27, then Fairless took its biggest lead of the night Trent Garver score and another bucket by Nicolino.
West Holmes coach Keith Troyer then called a time-out and sent his defense to work, creating havoc with its pressure and creating a ton of Falcons turnovers.
The recovery began on the shoulders of a freshman, that being Chance Wells, who drained a pair of 3-pointers around a steal from Chase Wells, who fed Hager for a score.
That got the Knights to within 44-35, and West Holmes produced a third quick turnover and Connor Roach made Fairless pay with an and-one to trim the lead to 44-38.
The two teams traded buckets, with Chase Wells canning a short jumper to get West Holmes back within six at 48-42 with 3:15 to play. West Holmes forced another turnover, but failed to capitalize, then created yet another Fairless turnover that resulted in a Hager three-ball with 2:30 to play that drew the Knights to within three at 48-45. West Holmes then ran more than one minute off the clock after creating Fairless’ 16th turnover of the night, but with 40 seconds to play, Chance Wells’ 3-pointer to tie it was right on line but just short. West Holmes continued its pressure defense, and had to give up several fouls to put the Falcons’ Pavlik on the line for a one-and-one with 14 seconds left to play. He hit the first but missed the second, and Hager went down and stroked a trey with 4.7 seconds to play to get the Knights within one at 49-48.
West Holmes quickly fouled Degler, who missed the front end of the one-and-one, and West Holmes had one last-ditch effort to pull off the comeback. However, having to go the length of the floor in under four seconds, Bridenthal’s long heave to near the free throw line was intercepted by Degler with 0.3 seconds left. He missed the free throw on purpose, and West Holmes could not even attempt a final prayer of a heave.
Hager paced the Knights with a season-high 16 points, including four 3-popinters. Chance Wells matched him in the long-ball department, connecting on four treys for all of his 12 points. Chase Wells added eight, Goudy pitched in with five and Jones and Roach each added three. Lanie paced the Falcons with a dozen points, while Nicolino added 11.
The Knights were strong from the arc, canning 8-of-19 3-pointers, but Fairless won the game on the strength of its inside scoring. The Falcons scored on a lot of lay-ups, leading to a 14-of-20 shooting performance form inside the arc. The Knights turned the ball over 13 times, with seven of those coming in the disastrous third quarter, but did manage to create 16 Falcons turnovers, with five of those coming in the frantic late comeback bid.
While it wasn’t the victory Keith Troyer’s crew wanted, this game could well serve as the confidence boost this club needs to get back on track.