BLADENBORO – Sophomore Unique Kelly poured in 15 of his 32 points in the final quarter as West Columbus rallied for a 70-65 non-conference boys’ basketball victory over West Bladen.
The Knights, who led by 14 points midway the 3rd quarter, took their final lead of the night at 61-59 on senior Javonta Matthews’ short turn-around with 1:55 left to play. Jaylen Bellamy’s corner 3-ball vaulted the Vikings ahead, but Matthews tied the game with a foul shot at the 1:21 mark.
Senior Amajae Lowery stole the ball and raced for a lay-up to put the visitors on top, and Kelly drove for a lay-up and a 3-point play with 28 seconds remaining. Matthews banked in a 3-ball with 18 seconds left to pull West to within 67-65, but a Lowery free throw and a Kelly steal and lay-up at the buzzer accounted for the final margin.
“We were nervous with the ball,” said Knight Coach Travis Pait. “We are young and inexperienced, and we have got to learn how to win. This was our first real test against a good team. We didn’t guard in the last quarter either. But this will be good for us, and we will get back to work tomorrow.”
Matthews posted a double-double for the Knights with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Sophomore Landon Stanley tossed in 13 points, and freshman Hezekiah Adams and senior Keshawn Ballard scored 10 points each. Senior Josiah Brown added 7 points, and sophomore Malachi Allen grabbed 8 rebounds.
Lowery and senior Naqlis Johnson followed Kelly on the Viking scoring list with 12 points each.
Stanley and Adams buried 3-point shots, Matthews flipped in a follow, and Adams scored in transition for an early 10-4 Knight lead. Brown drove for a lay-up then nailed a 3-point shot. Matthews sprinted end-to-end for a lay-up and an 18-8 lead. Two Kelly foul shots trimmed the margin to 18-10 at the quarter break.
A follow shot and a 3-point play by Kelly plus a Lowery 3-ball sliced the Knight lead to 20-18. Brown drove for a lay-up, Ballard bombed in a 3-ball, and Stanley flew to the rim for a lay-in and a 3-point play that opened up a 28-18 lead.
Johnson answered with a pair of 3-balls, and Matthews and the Vikings Xander Axelberg traded rebound baskets, before Allen sent a pass to senior Travail Baldwin for a Knight lay-up and a 32-27 halftime lead.
A pair of driving lay-ups by Matthews, 2 Adams free throws, and a free throws and a rebound basket by Allen stretched the Knight lead to 41-27.
Ballard delivered a 3-ball, and Adams converted 2 foul shots to help the Knights withstand a 7-point flurry by Kelly. Two baskets by Johnson and a Lowery 3-ball closed the gap to 47-44. Junior Gary Parker tossed in a runner for the Knights, but Jaylen Bellamy’s lay-up kept the Vikings within 49-46 at the quarter break.
A pair of lay-ups and a free throw by Kelly pushed the visitors ahead 51-49. Two free throws each from Ballard and Allen plus one from Adams put the Knights up 54-51, but Kelly attacked for a lay-up and a 3-point play to tie the score.
Adams pulled up for a 6-footer, but Kelly tied it again with a drive. Stanley drilled in a 3-ball for a 59-56 Knight lead at the 3:05 mark, but Kelly set up a James Smith lay-up with a pass, and Lowery’s foul shot knotted the score again at 59-59.
The Knights, now 3-1, will travel to Whiteville Monday night.
West Columbus 10 17 19 24 – 70
West Bladen 18 14 17 16 – 65
WEST COLUMBUS (70) –Amajae Lowery 12, Unique Kelly 32, Naqlis Johnson 12, James Smith 2, Jaden Elmore, Xander Axelberg 6, Donte Moore, Jaylen Bellamy 6, Cameron Eady.
WEST BLADEN (65) – Hezekiah Adams 10, Josiah Brown 7, Landon Stanley 13, Malachi Allen 3, Keshawn Ballard 10, Gary Parker 4, Walter Bealon, Javonta Matthews 16, Travail Baldwin 2.