By JUSTIN RAINS
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.
CAYUGA 84, Dawson 19
Deon Shofner scored 30 points, and the sixth-ranked Cayuga boys’ basketball team led 42-5 at the half of its 84-19 rout of Dawson Friday.
The Wildcats also got 19 from Preston Anderson and 13 from Chandler Rigdon, while Wesley Rigdon pitched in seven.
Cayuga (19-6, 5-0) will travel to Hubbard Tuesday to start the second round of district play. Games begin at 5 p.m.
H.S. GIRLS BASKETBALL
WESTWOOD 49, ELKHART 41
It took most of three quarters to take control, but the Westwood girls’ basketball finally did Friday against Elkhart.
Westwood held the Lady Elks to eight points in the third quarter and scored 16 of its own to pull away a bit in a 49-41 victory that allows the Lady Panthers to keep pace in the 19-2A playoff chase.
Entering play Friday, Westwood was tied with Woden for the third-and-final playoff spot.
Shavon Nauls led Westwood with 13 points, while the Lady Panthers got eight apiece points from Mi’Kayla Benson, Natali Muniz and Nekeisha Hall.
Marialle Boles added seven for Westwood in the win.
The Lady Elks were led by Angel Smith’s 10 points. Both Tracey Clewis and Allison Sheridan had eight points while Robin Grant added eight.
The Lady Panthers (15-13, 6-3) host second-place Central Heights Tuesday, with action beginning at 5 p.m.
Elkhart travels to Woden, with varsity action at 6 p.m.
SLOCUM 75, Lovelady 51
For 50-straight games, the Lovelady girls’ basketball team left the court winners after district games.
That streak ended Friday.
The ninth-ranked Slocum girls’ basketball team rolled past 13th-ranked Lovelady, 75-51, avenging its lone district loss of the season. Lovelady had beaten Slocum by three points earlier this year.
Slocum led from the outset and never looked back, outscoring Lovelady during all four quarters of the game.
Valerie Larkin led the Lady Mustangs with 23 points, while Landry Lane had 17 and Brice Sizemore added 13.
Slocum (24-2) travels to Normangee Tuesday for games beginning at 4 p.m.
CAYUGA 82, Dawson 20
Both Madison Spears and Molly Griffey eclipsed the 20-point mark as the Cayuga girls’ basketball got a much-needed win Friday, topping Dawson 82-20 to snap a two-game losing skid.
The win sets up a big game for Cayuga Tuesday, as they travel to Hubbard to take on the Lady Jags.
Spears led Cayuga with 26 points, while Griffey had 22 and seven steals.
Shelby Luce added nine points as did Danielle Anderson, who also pulled down eight rebounds. Shawnta Knox added eight points, four blocks and a team-best 10 rebounds.
Games Friday in Hubbard begin at 4 p.m.
Coaches or team representatives are encouraged to call in scores and stats to 903-729-0281 ext. 242 after games, or to email email@example.com
This version corrects an earlier version that incorrectly identified Shavon Nauls as Dasia Jones.