By Brad Morris
What started as a shooting highlight wheel between a pair of talented senior guards eventually transformed into solid team efforts for both Westfall and New Hope on Wednesday during the Horizon Holiday Classic.
Westfall used a combination of a little more balance and execution in crunch time to claim a hard-fought 61-58 win.
“This was a complete team win against a very solid, well-coached opponent,” Westfall coach Christian Meister said. “We had a number of players, like Brody Clark and Blaec Bugher, step up and make big plays during the fourth quarter to help put us over the top.”
Clark opened the fourth quarter with a three-pointer from the left wing to give the Mustangs their first lead of the second half at 50-48.
New Hope came back to take its final lead of the night at 53-52, following a three-pointer from Andrew Swank and a pair of free throws courtesy of Clayton Rhyne, with four minutes remaining.
Westfall regained the lead for good when Henry Barnes backed down his defender and scored from the left block. Clark and Bugher followed with back-to-back layups to put the Mustangs ahead 58-53 with 2:20 remaining.
Hunter Cavanaugh drained a three pointer and converted a pair of free throws to trim the Mustangs’ lead to 60-58 with 1:18 remaining.
“We asked Hunter to face-guard Casey Cline for three quarters, which is a tough assignment with how good Cline is shooting the basketball,” New Hope coach Shane Roese said. “Hunter not only did that, but he also stepped up and made some huge shots during the second half to give us a chance to win.”
The Cavanaugh free throws turned out to be the final points of the night for the Statesmen, who missed their final four shots from the field.
“I felt both teams played with a lot of energy there in the fourth quarter, but Westfall probably outexecuted us on a couple of possessions in the last three-to-four minutes and that turned out to be the difference,” Roese said. “Christian is doing a nice job at Westfall and we’ll be excited to host them (on Jan. 17). It should be another exciting game for the fans to watch.”
Casey Cline split a pair of free throws with 1.5 seconds left to make it a three-point game, which turned out to be the final margin of victory for the Mustangs.
The first half was a shooting clinic between Cline and Rhyne. Rhyne knocked down 9 of 13 shots in the half to score 21 points and help the Statesmen out to a 33-30 halftime advantage.
“Clayton is a pure scorer who has the ability to get to the basket, has great body control and knows how to use the backboard,” Roese said. “Our kids did a nice job of getting him the basketball in good spots to score from.”
“I didn’t think our defense was bad against Clayton in the first half,” Meister said. “Sometimes a player like Clayton for New Hope or Casey for us are going to elevate their game to another level and just keep hitting shots, and that’s what you saw from both of those guys, especially there in the first half.”
Cline drained 6 of 7 shots on his way to 17 points.
“Casey had a couple of tough games to start the season against Logan Elm and Southeastern, where he was being a little too unselfish and was wanting us to help create shots for him,” Meister said. “We had a little talk and Casey has come on over the last few weeks and is not only creating his own shots but also creating shots for his teammates.”
Cline paced the Mustangs with 20 points and also added seven rebounds and four assists. Clark contributed 14 points, Henry Barnes accounted for 12 points and four rebounds and Bugher chipped in six points, five assists and five rebounds.
“Our guard play with Casey, Brody and Blaec and our taller kids with Henry, Jeremiah and Seth are coming along over the last few weeks, playing with confidence and playing off the ability of their teammates,” Meister said. “It’s made us a tougher team to defend.”
Rhyne led all scorers with 27 points and also grabbed eight rebounds for the Statesmen. Cavanaugh scored 10 of his 18 points in the second half and also dished out five assists, and Lane Bruning chipped in six points.
The Horizon Holiday Classic concludes on Friday at Circleville. New Hope (5-2) faces Athens (2-5) at 5:30 p.m., followed by Westfall (6-3) taking on the host Tigers (5-4).
New Hope 58
NEW HOPE — Hunter Cavanaugh 6-2-18, Adam Rink 2-0-4, Andrew Swank 1-0-3, Clayton Rhyne 11-4-27, Lane Bruning 2-2-6. Three-point goals — Cavanaugh (4), Swank and Rhyne. Total — 22-52 8-12 58.
WESTFALL — Brody Clark 4-4-14, Casey Cline 7-2-20, Blaec Bugher 3-0-6, Henry Barnes 5-2-12, Seth Gifford 2-1-5, Jeremiah Layton 2-0-4. Three-point goals — Cline (4) and Clark (2). Total — 23-41 9-14 61.
Quarter scores 1 2 3 4 F
New Hope 16 17 15 10 58
Westfall 19 11 17 14 61