The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

Local Sports

January 25, 2013

H.S. Basketball: Elkhart knocks off Westwood in district thriller

ELKHART — Elkhart senior Jacob Cheatham hadn’t shot free throws all night. But, with five seconds left and his team up by one, he was going to the line for the chance to put things away.

Cheatham had just traveled the length of the court after coming out of a scramble for a loose ball after Westwood’s J.J. Turner missed the would-be go-ahead jumper, and taken a hard, intentional foul that left him sprawled on the baseline.

With all the other players on the court standing behind halfcourt, Cheatham — an Elkhart baseball star slated to play at Cisco College — calmly made the first. Then, after a timeout, he made the second as Elkhart upset district-leading Westwood, 55-52, Friday.

The Panthers, after stealing the ensuing inbound pass awarded to Elkhart for the intentional foul, had a chance to tie things up, but their attempt at a baseball-style pass couldn’t connect with L.J. Hutchison, and Elkhart celebrated the victory.

It’s a win that will reverberate throughout District 19-2A, which now has both Westwood and Crockett tied at the top with one loss each, with the Elks and their two losses only a game behind.

Westwood lead the majority of the game and Elkhart didn’t take its first lead until midway through the third quarter, and it was short-lived.

But, the Elks begin their comeback early in the fourth, when Brian Johnson scored eight-straight points to take the game from Westwood up by three to the Elks leading by four with four-and-a-half minutes left.

Jeffrey Wilson extended the Elks lead with his offensive rebound and put-back of a Cheatham miss with four minutes remaining.

Turner hit 1-of-2 free throws with under 3:30 left to cut Elkhart’s lead to five, the first Westwood points in an almost three-minute stretch.

The team’s traded 1-for-2 performances at the line before Cole Bridges hit two free throws to put the Elks up 53-46 with 2:25 to play. But, Westwood wasn’t done yet.

Chris Thompson hit a mid-range jumper to cut the lead to 53-48, and after a missed three from Bridges, Hutchison found Turner on the fast break for a lay-up that made it 53-50.

Westwood’s defense then stepped up, forcing Bridges into a turnover that led to two more points as Hutchison drove the lane for an acrobatic, up-and-under lay-up to make it 53-52.

After that, however, Elkhart held the ball for almost 30 seconds before Westwood got it back.

The Panthers worked their offense, and Turner got a decent baseline look, but his effort went long.

The ball was knocked around for at least five seconds before Cheatham emerged with it and took off toward the basket, earning his defining trip to the line.

The game was played in a playoff-type atmosphere with a playoff-type intensity. Players dove all over for loose balls as fans from both schools backed the gym.

Cheatham finished with 19 to lead Elkhart, who also got 15 from Johnson and 12 more from Bridges. Wilson added eight and a game-high 12 rebounds, while Cheatham pulled down seven rebounds.

Turner led all scorers with 20 points and had seven rebounds, while Thompson finished with a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

Elkhart managed to successfully neutralize Westwood big man Dra Ross with a zone defense. Ross finished 0-for-3 from the field and only scored three points, though he did pull down 10 rebounds.

Westwood (16-9, 7-1) will look to rebound Tuesday when they welcome in Central Heights with games beginning at 5 p.m.

Elkhart (12-11, 6-2) will look to keep their winning streak alive Tuesday when they travel to Woden for games beginning at 5 p.m.

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