By JUSTIN RAINS
In the midst of a playoff-like atmosphere, the Westwood boys’ basketball team proved Tuesday that it may be the class of District 19-2A.
In front of a standing-room only crowd at Westwood High School, the 17th-ranked Panthers took blow after blow from visiting Crockett, only to answer back every time.
Westwood earned a 63-58 win, improving to 14-7 overall but, more importantly, 4-0 in district play.
The Panthers looked like it might put the game away in the third quarter, edging to a double-digit lead on numerous occasions.
The first came on the back of Jacobee Newton. The sophomore post made a free throw to make it 40-30 and then, with less than two minutes to play in the third, got an offensive rebound, put it back for the basket and got fouled.
He made his foul shot and Westwood had its biggest lead of the night at 43-30.
That double-digit advantage held up into the fourth, but Crockett clawed back in the fourth.
The Bulldogs got a big three Coby Berry with just over five minutes to play to cut the Westwood lead to 49-42, and a bucket from Tevin Collins made it 49-44 seconds later.
Crockett got the lead down to four with just under two minutes to play when Collins got a basket and was fouled, making his foul shot.
Then, Westwood answered. Again.
On the Panthers next possession, Chris Thompson hit a pull-up jumper from 12 feet to extend the lead back to six.
Things got tense only once more, when a jump ball between Dra Ross and a Crockett player was changed to a foul on Ross. That sent Crockett to the line where they hit both free throws, cutting the lead to three points.
But, Thompson came up big again, hitting a free throw to make it a two-possession game.
Crockett then turned the ball over the next time down the court, and J.J. Turner hit two free throws with 14 seconds left to ice the game for good.
Both teams came out strong against stiff defensive pressure, and Westwood held an 11-9 advantage after the first quarter. It was a lead that the Panthers never relinquished.
Westwood led 28-23 at the half and outscored Crockett 15-9 in the third to put some distance between the Panthers and previously unbeaten in district Bulldogs.
The Panthers presented a balanced scoring attack, with no player scoring more than 12 but six players scoring at least eight.
Ross led the way with a double-double. The senior had 12 points and 10 rebounds in the win, while L.J. Hutchison added 11 points and six rebounds.
Both Josh Denby and Turner finished with nine, while Thompson and Newton each had eight.
Collins led Crockett with 20 while Berry added 14. Michael McKnight had nine and X’avior Berry added seven in the loss.
Westwood returns to action Friday when they travel to Garrison. Games begin at 5 p.m.
CAYUGA 76, Mexia 72
Another big night from sophomore Chandler Rigdon and more solid play from star Preston Anderson pushed Cayuga past perennial Class 3A power Mexia Tuesday, 76-72.
Rigdon had 29 to lead the Wildcats, his third-straight game over 20 and third-straight game to lead the team in scoring.
The sixth-ranked Wildcats trailed until the third quarter, when they finally took the lead and never gave it back.
Anderson had 19 for Cayuga (14-6) while Deon Shofner added 11.
The Wildcats open district play Friday, when they host Hubbard. Games begin with girls’ action at 4 p.m.
ELKHART 58, Groveton 48
The Elkhart boys’ basketball team got an important road win and moved to 3-1 in District 19-3A with a 58-48 win in Groveton Tuesday.
Jeffrey Wilson had 18 to lead the Elks, who also got 14 points from Luke Hollingsworth and 10 more from Brian Johnson.
Jacob Cheatham and Chance Chapman both had seven in the win for Elkhart, which is off Friday before a big week of games next week.
The Elks welcome in Central Heights Tuesday before traveling to Crockett Friday.
Sports editor Justin Rains can be reached via email at email@example.com