WASHINGTON — It’s not how a team starts a game, it’s how it finishes. A mantra the Demons don’t seem to know, but one the Panthers counted on.
Friday, the defending Southeast Conference champion Washington boys basketball team scored 24 points in the first quarter, but 28 in the final three while Mt. Pleasant scored 45 in those three quarters after just 10 in the first. The result was a 55-52 victory for the Panthers on the defending champs home floor.
“When you have a team down like we have, you cannot allow them back in it,” WHS head coach Collin Stark said. “It might be on me that I don’t coach them to keep their focus.”
Washington sprinted out to a 14-1 lead. Panthers head coach Eric Rawson called time trailing 10-0.
“Brutal honesty, just brutally honest with them that we were flat and Washington had more energy,” Rawson said. “At the quarter, we had a goal, ‘just cut the lead in half.’”
Down 14 at 24-10, the Panthers halved the lead to seven, scoring the first nine points of the second to trail 32-25 at halftime, then put up the first five points and the last six of the third quarter to get within 43-42. Dewon Trent, who led all scorers with 18, netted a bucket at 7 minutes, 7 seconds remaining for the first Panthers lead.
“The best part was we decided to be a team and not do any one on one,” said Chase Williamson, who had 15 points. “We start low then we build up and build up. Every game we do that.” Panthers teammate Brevin Wilson added 11.
Washington led 45-44 after Kasen Bailey (nine points, four assists) made two free throws. Jack Johnson stole the ball from him on the next possession and Bailey charged after him, fouling him and injuring himself. He left the building on crutches.
With 4:26 remaining, Washington’s Trashaun Willis (six points, seven rebounds, five assists) was mugged on a rebound without a call and said so, prompting a technical.
Sam Jerrel nets two free throws, then Williamson hit 1-of-2 for a 50-47 Panthers lead.
Ethan Patterson, who matched Washington teammate Lance Sobaski’s 14 points, sank two free throws, followed by a Lucas Kroll steal and layup to get the Demons ahead, 51-50. Kroll finished with eight points.
With 1:30 remaining, Williamson tied the game at 51 with a free throw.
“Games are won at the free-throw line,” he said. “We have to capitalize there or we will lose.” MPHS was 16-for-22 at the line, Washington 10-of-11and that 11th one was the miss with :23 left and Wilson is fouled on the rebound. Wilson cans both free throws for a 53-52 Panthers lead. Jerrell ices the win at :06 with two free throws.
While the Panthers press did not produce many turnovers, it forced two (of 13 total) in the last seconds.
“We love the press and we love working on it every day in practice,” Williamson said.
Mt. Pleasant is 8-6, 4-3 SEC while Washington is 9-4, 5-2.
“Washington has a great team, they play with a lot of energy, play well together and are extremely athletic, so we are tickled to get this win,” Rawson said.