W.T. Woodson 58,
West Springfield 53
As the fouls piled up, it became evident that last night's nondistrict boys' basketball game between W.T. Woodson and West Springfield would be decided at the free throw line. But both teams struggled at the line, missing numerous chances to seize control.
Still, after host West Springfield climbed to within three points in the final 20 seconds, W.T. Woodson's Jose Olivero finally got it right. The senior guard sank the game's final two free throws, allowing W.T. Woodson to escape with a 58-53 victory.
The flurry of whistles kept either team from seizing momentum. There were 47 total fouls, but before Olivero's last two shots, the teams had combined to make just 22 of 46 from the line.
West Springfield (3-2) trailed by 10 early in the fourth quarter, but rallied as the tempo slowed, finally turning it into a one-possession game on a put-back by senior forward Josh Wilson (game-high 18 points) with 18 seconds left.
But Olivero, the leading scorer for W.T. Woodson (5-0), was anxious to get one more chance.
"I want them to foul me when it's under 20 seconds," he said. "That's what I play for."
Olivero had 14 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists, but W.T. Woodson was carried for long stretches by its reserves. With second-leading scorer Brian Tran battling the flu and three other starters in foul trouble, all 11 Cavaliers received playing time and nine scored.
"We usually don't have to rely on [the bench], but tonight we did," Coach Mike Pflugrath said. "Quite honestly, that's why we pulled it out -- those guys stepped up."
West Springfield also turned to an unusual lineup.
Leading scorer Justin Baker was out with a sprained ankle suffered last Friday against Madison, and guard Bobby Fithian missed his second straight game with a sore groin. The Spartans finally got in sync by deploying a full-court press and dumping the ball inside to Wilson and Marshall Ausberry, who teamed for 16 points in the fourth quarter.
W.T. Woodson is off to a stellar start for the second straight season. Last year, it was 7-0 before dropping six of their next seven games.
"We've got good senior leadership this year and we're more cohesive as a team," Olivero said. "I don't think we're going to break down like we did last year."