Without the wins to back it up, people might not believe that Western Hills has gotten better from the beginning of the season to the end.
But coach Geoff Cody knows better.
“From December against Owen County until now, we’ve come so far — we’re just one or two little things away,” an emotional Cody said after his team’s heartbreaking 68-67 overtime loss to Sayre on Senior Night Friday night at Cardwell Lapsley Gymnasium.
“I can’t be more proud of a group of guys right now because there’s been so many times this year where they could’ve given up, they could’ve quit, and they didn’t. They’ve come back every night and fought and fought.”
The Wolverines (3-26) led for almost the entirety of regulation in their regular-season finale, but they couldn’t hang onto the lead when they needed to the most.
After trailing 50-47 with under a minute to go in regulation, the Spartans (18-9) scored the next five points to take just their second lead of the game. Senior Justin Sanders got an offensive rebound off a missed free throw and made the second of two free throws to tie the game at 50-all with 40 seconds left and followed that up with a steal and layup seconds later.
But back came WHHS. Senior Macaulay Hurst drove down the middle of the lane and found sophomore Keaton Anderson for a bucket with seven seconds left. Anderson was also fouled on the play, but he missed the free throw.
Sayre then turned the ball over, sending the game into overtime.
The Spartans opened overtime by scoring 10 of the first 12 points to take a 62-54 lead midway through, but the Wolverines followed with an 11-2 run to reclaim the lead at 65-64 with 42 seconds left. The run was capped with Hurst driving the lane again and finding sophomore Patrick Foley in the corner for a 3.
Sanders answered with a pair of free throws before Anderson scored on a driving layup to put WHHS back up at 67-66 with 21 seconds left. Sanders then drove down the court and made a layup and sophomore Dylan Jones’ 3-pointer was off as time expired.
“It was bad that we had to lose, but somebody had to lose,” Cody said. “We learn from it and go on to the next game.
“We did what we had to do and Sayre did what they had to do to take it to extra innings.”
Sanders scored 37 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the Spartans. Junior Quinn Pergande scored all 11 of his points in the second half.
“He’s a good player, he’s hard-nosed. When they needed a bucket he just put his head down and went to the goal,” Cody said of Sanders, who had 11 points in overtime. “We have guards that can do that, it’s just giving them confidence that they can do it.”
Hurst scored 14 points and ZhaVaughn Reed added 13 points to lead the Wolverines. Senior Kory Waller had nine points and seven rebounds before fouling out.
“That was big for Macaulay. He’s been playing hurt, but he played like a trooper tonight. I couldn’t be more proud of him for the way that he played tonight.”
WHHS begins tournament play by taking on Franklin County in the 41st District Tournament Tuesday at 8:15 p.m. at the Frankfort Convention Center.
SAYRE (68) — Justin Sanders 37, Harrison Dunn 3, Martin Durmov 8, Quinn Pergande 11, Alex Webb 9.
WESTERN HILLS (67) — Patrick Foley 5, Michael Hatfield 2, ZhaVaughn Reed 13, Macaulay Hurst 14, Kory Waller 9, Keaton Anderson 8, Dylan Jones 5, Seth Gyr 1, Willie Walker 6, Kyle Fisher 4.