It says a lot about a team when it can find a way to beat a good opponent when not playing its best basketball.
That’s exactly what the Washington High School boys team did Tuesday night in a hard-fought 62-57 overtime win over Ringgold.
Wash High (4-0) threw the ball around too much, didn’t rebound well and shot poorly from the free-throw line, but in the end the Prexies put things together when they had to in order to come out with a victory.
“I am very proud of the way we fought,” Wash High coach Mark Gaither said. “We didn’t play well at all, but we fought until the end. We got a very late start because most of these guys were also on the football team, so to start out 4-0 is very good for us.”
The Prexies can feel fortunate that this one didn’t get away from them.
A 12-2 run early in the second quarter gave Wash High a double-digit lead and it looked like the Prexies would cruise to an easy win, but Ringgold (1-1) went on a 21-7 spurt in the third quarter and led 44-41 with eight minutes left in regulation.
That Rams’ run was fueled by plenty of Wash High turnovers and an excellent performance from Dayshore Majors, who scored nine of his 18 points in the quarter.
Ringgold struggled shooting but got to the rim at will, which helped keep the Rams in the game.
“I think they were a bit surprised by our team speed,” said Ringgold head coach Pete Logan. “We were playing without one starter (freshman Derez Tyree) but we wanted to attack them aggressively with our speed, and I think we did a good job of that.”
The game stayed tight in the fourth quarter, and the Rams held a slim lead until the final minute. Ringgold forced plenty of Wash High mistakes and Ringgold’s Demetrious Louis was able to convert at the rim, scoring eight of his 10 points in the fourth.
But things all changed at the 4:39 mark when Ringgold’s John Maldonado fouled out.
Maldonado finished with 12 points, but more importantly did a good job defending Wash High’s high-scoring Josh Wise.
“He is one of our two key returning starters, so it hurt when he went out,” added Logan. “He did a good job defensively, and not having him out there as that other ball-handler impacted us.”
Wise finished the first half with 10 points, but got only one shot in the third quarter and struggled from the free-throw line all night. But with the game on the line, Wise again made big plays.
He sank a pair of free throws to cut the Ringgold lead to 53-52. After Louis scored on a putback to make it 55-52, Marquel Matusic forced a Ringgold turnover and found Wise, who made the layup and the free throw that followed to tie the score at 55-55 and send it into overtime.
“They did good job on me defensively,” said Wise, who finished with 18 points. “They play an aggressive man and a good zone, and they made it difficult for me to get touches. I knew that late in the game I had to do something to help us win. I wasn’t doing much all night, so I’m glad the opportunity came. But when I’m not scoring, we have some other guys to step up.”
One of those other guys was Billy Edwards, who finished with a game-high 22 points. Edwards saved his best for overtime.
The junior guard gave Wash High a 57-55 lead with a runner in the lane, and on the next possession made a three-pointer to give the Prexies a lead they would protect.
“I’m playing with confidence,” said Edwards. “Josh can’t do all the scoring every night, so it is up to me and the other guys to score some. Coach always says keep shooting when the shots are there, and I got a lot of good looks tonight.”
In addition to the heroics of Edwards, the Prexies likely don’t pull out a win without senior Jaylin Kelly, who had success scoring inside and finished with 14 points.
“It was a good win,” said Gaither. “We have a lot to work on, but we have some time to get better. Right after football season, these guys get thrown in and have to play four games in five days. Now we just have to work on some things.”