By GARY DOVE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The Westside Renegades thwarted a frenzied Wyoming East comeback attempt last night at the Raleigh County Convention Center to capture the Class AA Region III Section 1 championship.
Will Fox hit a trey from the right corner with 4:50 remaining in the game to give the Renegades their biggest lead of the night at 58-39 before the Warriors mounted the comeback try, outscoring Westside 21-7 over that final span, and cutting to deficit to 63-60 with only three seconds left.
Levi Lambert’s two foul shots one second later slammed the door on East and gave Westside the 65-60 victory, its 18th of the season against six losses, and the third win this campaign against the Warriors in four games.
The early going was a see-saw affair, with a pair of ties and five lead changes in the opening 5:11.
A Justin Kenneda basket after a steal gave the Renegades the lead for keeps at the 2:49 mark, before holding a slim 11-10 advantage after the inaugural frame.
Westside shot the ball well in the initial eight minutes, connecting on five-of-eleven tries, while holding East to only two-of-nine accuracy.
Related Warrior head coach Rory Chapman of his team’s inability to get into an offensive rhythm in the opening half, “They (Renegades) were able to push our offense way out. They did a good job of putting pressure on our guards.”
Explained Westside head coach Nick Cook of his defensive strategy, “We wanted to make it tough on their entry passes.”
Corey Bowles, who paced the Renegades with 17 points, had exited with 1:37 showing in the first after injuring his ankle, but reappeared in the second to knock down a pair of threes in leading Westside to a 32-24 lead at the break.
The hot hand continued for the Renegades, as they made 8-of-12 second chapter tries, including 3-of-5 from beyond the three point arch.
Josh Tunstalle, who equaled Bowles’ 17 points for the Warriors, had 13 of the 24 Wyoming East first half points and 8 of 14 in the second.
For the opening half, the Renegades made 13-of-23 field goal attempts, while East could sink only 7-of-24, while being outrebounded 16-11.
The Warriors closed to within four, at 35-31 following a Christian Hedinger three point play, at the 4:15 mark of the third, but that would be the last East points until 7:23 remained in the game.
Westside scored eleven unanswered points to close the chapter and added three more on a Fox trey early in the final frame. Bowles started the spurt with a three, with Lambert adding six on four free throws and a jumper from the foul line as the chapter ended.
Austin Canada and Brett Bowling took charge of the Warrior offense after the aforementioned Fox three ball at the 4:50 mark.
Canada scored eleven of his sixteen points in the fourth, while Bowling tossed in six of his fifteen in the final eight minutes.
Matt Harless made one charity toss with 3:23 remaining to keep the lead in twin digits, at 60-46.
Following an East timeout with 2:12 showing, after Cody Lester’s three point play closed the gap to 60-49, the Warriors went to a full court press that would end up costing Westside five turnovers the remainder of the way.
Bowling first scored on a putback and Canada hit a jumper from the free throw line before Lester’s one-of-two charity shots with 46 ticks remaining cut the deficit to 60-54.
Kenneda briefly interrupted with one freebie before Christian Hedinger connected on an NBA-distance three with 14 seconds left, slicing the gap to 61-57.
Kenneda added two foul shots before Bowling closed out the East scoring on a three point play after an offensive rebound.
Kenneda’s two charity shots with 1.8 seconds on the clock erased any hopes of East gaining the win.
Assessed Coach Chapman, “It’s got to be everyone working together. I didn’t feel like we did that until the last quarter.”
Only the five starters scored for East, led by Tunstalle’s 17, Canada’s 16 and Bowling contributing 15.
Now 16-8, the Warriors will visit the winner of tonight’s Section 2 game between Bluefield and PikeView next week, with a trip to the state tournament hanging in the balance.
Following Bowles’ 17, Lambert scored 14 and Fox tallied thirteen. The Renegade bench outscored the Warrior subs 19-0.
Concluded Coach Cook, “It seemed like everybody I put in there stepped up and made big plays.”
Westside will host the loser of tonight’s Bluefield-PikeView game next week. The winner of that Region III contest also capturing a state tourney spot.
at Raleigh County Convention Center
WYOMING EAST (16-8)
Austin Canada 7 1-3 16, Cody Lester 1 2-3 4, Josh Tunstalle 5 6-8 17, Christian Hedinger 2 3-5 8, Brett Bowling 4 7-7 15. Totals 19 19-26 60.
Will Fox 5 1-2 13, Jordan Browning 1 0-0 3, Corey Bowles 6 2-3 17, Justin Kenneda 1 5-7 7, Levi Lambert 3 7-8 14, Jason Scarlet 1 0-0 2, Justin Cogar 3 0-0 6, Matt Harless 1 1-2 3. Totals 21 16-22 65.
Wyoming East......................10 14 7 29 — 60
Westside...............................11 21 14 19 — 65
3-point goals: WE 3 (Canada, Tunsatlle, Hedinger); WR 7 (Bowles 3, Fox 2, Browning, Lambert). Fouled out: Tunstalle, Bowles. Technicals: WE coach (Chapman).