WESTWOOD – The Westwood Panthers defended home court in their district home opener against the Frankston Indians Tuesday evening. Westwood edged the Indians, 44-30, behind stout defensive play from their backcourt.
The Panthers jumped out to an early 6-0 lead before Frankston's Brink Bizzell splashed home a three.
A dime from Mario Black to Devonte Downie extender their lead to 8-3. Frankston proved to be a problem for the Panthers on the boards early when Dillard snatched down a rebound before leaping back up for the bucket and the foul – he missed the free throw but moved the Indians into a single possession.
A few possessions later, Frankston's Caleb Ramsey pulled a free-throw line jay to give Frankston their first lead of the evening, 9-8. Downie retook the lead for the Panthers on a score in the final minute as Westwood carried a 10-9 lead into the second.
Bizzell got things going early for the Indians as he swished a three in to sit Frankston on top 12-10. Brody McLelland responded with back-to-back threes, which gave Westwood a 16-12 advantage.
Mario Black extended their lead to six with a little over six minutes to go in the quarter.
A pair of buckets from both teams kept the score within six for the Indians. Clay Kennedy cut the deficit to four with a free-throw line jay before KJ Hawkins snagged yet another offensive board for the Indians before exploding up for a tough layup.
Westwood's Bri'Darian Hunt ended the Frankston's slight run with his second three-pointer of the game. The Indians continued to live by their mid-range game and it continued to work throughout the first half.
Kennedy pulled up in his comfort spot for a smooth mid-range jumper to cut the deficit to 23-20 with a little under three minutes left in the half. Scoring stalled for the final two minutes as Westwood held onto a 24-22 lead at the half.
Both sides exchanged buckets right out of half until Hunt began to take over midway through the third. A pair of back-to-back drives to the basket from Hunt made the score 32-28, Westwood.
Frankston's Cael Bruno responded with his first three of the game. Hunt scored Westwood's sixth point in a row on a pump-and-drive pull-up jumper from the baseline.
Ramsey scored the final basket of the third and left the score with them trailing 34-33 heading into the fourth.
The Panthers shot out to a 6-0 run, which was highlighted by a pair of technical foul free throws from a Frankston player pushing someone after the whistle.
The Indians responded with two straight baskets of their own as they still trailed by three with four minutes left in the game.
Bruno had an opportunity to even the score, but his wide-open three spun in-and-out as the crowd shockingly gasped.
Bri'Darian Hunt did not let his chance at an open three pass by as he extended the Panthers' lead to 43-37 with three minutes to go.
Bruno got a chance at redemption and cashed in on his second three of the second-half. Frankston nearly reduced the gap to one on a fast break before a pivotal charge from Mario Black saved a transition bucket for Frankston.
Black later went on to split his free throws in the final seconds to give his squad the four-point district win.
Westwood will enjoy a Friday bye before traveling to Crockett on Tuesday for district play. Frankston will attempt to bounce back as they host the Crockett Bulldogs Friday. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.