Slow start, fast finish for WHS

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It’s hard to win basketball games scoring only four points in the first quarter, or 17 in a half. Sometimes, you have to win ugly, and that’s exactly what the Wash High Prexies did Friday night in their Section 4-AA matchup against Brentwood.


The Prexies came out flat in the first half and survived a very sloppy start at the offensive end of the floor to eventually beat the Spartans 46-35.


“It certainly wasn’t our prettiest effort,” said Washington head coach Mark Gaither. “But a win is a win, so we have to be happy with the W. You have to take care of business at home in the section, so it was a big win.”


Despite the slow start on offense, Wash High (2-0, 6-0) stayed in the game because of its defense. Even though they weren’t making shots, the Prexies were forcing Brentwood (0-3, 2-4) to take many difficult ones.


The end result was that Wash High trailed only 7-4 after the first quarter. Not exactly the blueprint for efficient offensive basketball.


“I thought our defense saved us early,” said Gaither. “We had good looks, but we must have missed five or six layups in the first quarter alone. We defended well and didn’t allow easy baskets. That kept us in the game until we could get some rhythm on offense.”


The Prexies didn’t exactly light it up in the second quarter, either, but outscored the Spartans, 13-6, and went into the locker room with a 17-13 lead.


Jaylin Kelly knocked down a pair of big three-point field goals, which seemed to give the Prexies some momentum heading into halftime.


“I thought they were big shots,” said Kelly, who scored eight of his 10 points in the first half. “They were playing Josh (Wise) pretty tight, and I think hitting those shots loosened their defense up a bit, and Josh was able to get more space in the second half.”


That’s exactly what happened as Wash High’s leading scorer took over the final two quarters.


After a conventional three-point play from Darius Spinks gave the Prexies a two-point lead in the third quarter, Wise hit back-to back baskets to give Wash High its biggest lead of the game at the time, 26-20.


The Prexies extended that lead to 34-23 after three quarters as Wise scored nine of the team’s 11 points on an 11-3 run to break the game open.


After scoring only two points in the first quarter, Wise finished with a game-high 24, including 17 in the second half.


“We just attacked them differently in the second half,” said Wise. “We came out sluggish, but we changed some of the angles we were attacking the basket and the way we were screening, and I started to get a lot more open looks.”


The Spartans were able to hang in there for a while, but once Washington turned up the tempo, they couldn’t keep up.


“I liked what we were doing early,” said Brentwood head coach Dave Mislan. “We controlled the pace and made it difficult for Wise to get going. But Kelly’s two shots in the first half were huge. It made us spread out more than we wanted to and once Wise got going in the second half, it was tough for us to keep up.”


Brentwood was led in scoring by Jason Pilarski, who finished with 17.


The Prexies are off until Thursday when they face Indiana in the West Allegheny Tournament.


“We will take a couple days off to enjoy the holiday but we have to get right back to work,” said Gaither. “We have some things to tighten up before we get into the meat of our section schedule.”


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