The mantra remained the same for timeout after timeout as the clock ticked down in Westlake’s 61-59 overtime win at North Point: defense, rebounding, free throws. It was the ability to master those three fundamentals that staked the Wolverines to a 16-point halftime lead — and their return to that formula helped them avoid a complete second-half collapse.
The Wolverines are significantly smaller but speedier than the Eagles, and they quickly turned Eagles misfires into runouts for easy layups. Omar Alston pulled in the majority of the Wolverines’ rebounds and scored a team-high 12 points.
But when 6-foot-4 forwards Devin Allen and Malik Brown started to beat them to the ball, the Wolverines (15-4, 12-1 SMAC) saw a double-digit lead shrink to one point at the start of the final quarter.
“We knew that going into this game they were bigger than us, but we’re speedier,” Wolverines Coach Ed Mouton said. “So we knew that if we got the rebounds, we could get to the basket quicker.”
The plan had been to “keep the gas going” after halftime, point guard Dominic Espeleta said. The Charles County rivals were tied after the first quarter in Waldorf, but the Wolverines erupted in the second off the speedy playmaking of Espeleta.
His tendency to dash out of double-teams and drive to the basket just as often as he assisted on a three-pointer provided a sharp contrast to Ochae Dejene’s settling presence at the top of the circle for the Eagles.
Dejene scored seven points in the first half but went scoreless during a 17-0 run by the Eagles during the third.
North Point (13-4, 10-2) came out with an intensity “two times better than us” after the half, Mouton said, and it showed. A Westlake bench that was on its feet and clapping with 45 seconds left in the first half was distraught a period later.
“We knew it was coming; we just couldn’t handle it,” Alston said of the second-half Eagles rush. “Once we just started rebounding, that’s what we needed. It was the whole team.”
Alston tied the game up with a drive from the left and a layup to knot the score at 53 with 38 seconds left. The Wolverines took the lead for the last time in overtime on a series of quick passes from Espeleta to guard Desi Wiseman to Chris Craft, then back to the point guard.
The win completed a season sweep of the Eagles for Westlake, which beat North Point for the first time since 2009 on its home court two weeks ago.
“We’ve made Westlake history,” Wiseman said.