Fast start propels Warriors to win
Slow starts have been the norm so far this season for West Caldwell’s boys’ basketball team. That was not the case Friday night
The Warriors raced out to a 19-2 lead after one quarter and cruised to a 65-40 win over Hibriten on the Panthers’ home hardwood, staying unbeaten at 4-0.
The loss, the Panthers’ second to West in a week, dropped them to 2-2.
Ashton Smith, playing with stitches on his face after a nasty collision with teammate Tre Harper Tuesday against South Caldwell, scored seven of his 11 points in the opening stanza when West attacked the basket and boards aggressively in rolling up the big lead.
In the second quarter, the Warriors went into an offensive lull, and Hibriten battled back. Trailing 24-5, the Panthers parlayed a 10-0 run over the final 4:40 of the half to close the gap to 24-15 by the break.
“We didn’t make turnovers and mental mistakes like we had been in that first quarter, but in the second quarter, coaches and players made mistakes,” West head coach Danny Anderson said. “Our execution went down a little. Sometimes success early makes you relax. We didn’t want to work. We wanted it to be easy.”
The third quarter was a different story, however. West regained its focus and control of the contest, outscoring Hibriten 27-9. The Warriors hit 9-of-17 shots in the period and committed just one turnover.
“We did a good job of adjusting after halftime and did things to get some breaks,” Anderson said.
Mekhi Dula was a one-man wrecking crew in the period. The 6-foot, 5-inch left-handed sophomore took over inside, and Hibriten had no answer. He either made his way to the basket for buckets or drew fouls that sent him to the charity stripe. He made all three of his field-goal attempts and hit 6-of-7 from the foul line to score 12 of his game-high 20 points in the quarter. Dula, who had eight rebounds, also dropped in 20 a week ago in the 71-41 win against Hibriten.
The Panthers found themselves within 15 after a Charles Benfield putback with 2:54 left in the third before West closed the quarter on a 12-0 run, sparked by eight points from T.J. Hendrix that pushed the lead to 51-24. It never was less than 23 the rest of the way.
Hendrix had 12 points off the bench for West, which had 24 points and 18 rebounds from its reserves. Smith added eight rebounds.
“A lot of people did a lot of things,” Anderson said. “We’re still a work in progress, and the kids know that. They also know I’m going to expect a lot out of them. They can enjoy it this weekend, but it’s back to work come Monday.”
Kel Berry had 13 points to lead the Panthers, 10 of them in the second half. Benfield had six points and six rebounds, with Drake Felder adding seven boards.
In junior varsity action, West Caldwell posted a 47-31 triumph behind 15 points from Caleb Coffey and 13 by Dalvin Mathes.
Hibriten takes the floor again Monday when it heads to Patton. West Caldwell returns to action Thursday at Fred T. Foard.
West Caldwell 65, Hibriten 40
West Caldwell^19^5^27^14 – 65
Hibriten^2^13^9^16 – 40
WEST CALDWELL (65): Mekhi Dula 20, T.J. Hendrix 12, Ashton Smith 11, Steptoe 5, Patterson 5, Hood 4, Bowman 4, Robinson 2, Braswell 2, Harper 0, Watson 0, Vasser-Jenkins 0.
HIBRITEN (40): Kel Berry 13, Benfield 6, Davis 6, Thomas 5, Hunt 2, Caldwell 2, Waters 2, Felder 2, Justice 2, Poarch 0, Braswell 0, Haas 0.