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Junior John Bowen fired in a 3-point shot with 4 seconds left in overtime that lifted West Bladen to a 67-66 victory over Hoke County Friday night in the championship game of the Woodmen Life Christmas Tournament.

Photos by Kenneth Armstrong

“I knew I had to get the ball and shoot,” said an excited Bowen. “I have to give Stefan (McDonald) a lot of credit for getting the ball to me. When it went in my heart went crazy.”

A mid-court heave by Hoke missed at the buzzer.

The drama began building with 6:17 left in regulation when Tournament Most Valuable Player Sayaun Dent ignited a Knight rally by draining the first of back-to-back 3-point shots. The two Dent 3-balls sliced a Hoke lead that had been 11 points down to 46-43.

Hoke’s Wesley Baldwin who led all scorers with 23 points and was named to the All-Tournament Team drove for a lay-up and a 3-point play at the 4:34 mark.

Knight sophmore Shaquille Johnson put back a rebound, and Bowen worked free for a lay-up and a 3-point play. Junior Kalvin Page stole the ball and raced to the basket for a lay-up and a 50-49 West lead with 2:33 on the clock.

Bowen popped free on the baseline against the Buck press and popped in an 8-foot turn-around for a 52-49 Knight lead at the 1:32 mark.

Page’s defense stymied the next two Hoke possessions as the junior guard drew back-to-back charging fouls. Page hit a free throw for a 53-49 edge, but Baldwin connected on a long 3-ball to whittle the margin to 53-52 with 20 seconds remaining.

Bowen followed up his own miss for a 55-52 Knight lead with 7 seconds left, but Baldwin drilled a guarded 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the game to overtime.

After a lay-up by Hoke’s Andre Pegues, McDonald who was also named to the All-Tournament team buried a 3-pointer from the right wing. Page found Johnson on the baseline for a short jumper and a 60-57 West lead.

Hoke’s 6-6 Silas Love scored inside, but Dent nailed another 3-pointer for a 63-59 Knight lead with 1:50 remaining. The Bucks converted 3 of 4 foul shots, but McDonald hit one to keep West ahead 64-62 at the 1:01 mark.

Pegues made a free throw, and the Bucks took the lead on Love’s 3-point play with 20 seconds left. After a West time-out with 16 ticks left, McDonald sent the pass to Bowen who delivered the game-winner from 4 feet behind the arc on the right wing.

“We battled,” said Knight Coach Travis Pait. “We do some dumb things at times because we are so young, but these kids play hard. We just kept fighting tonight until the shots started falling. I am tickled to death.”

Dent and Bowen shared scoring honors with 15 points each. Dent grabbed 7 rebounds and Bowen added 5. McDonald followed with 12 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists.

Johnson finished with 8 points and a team-high 9 rebounds. “Shaq (Johnson) didn’t score much the last two nights, but he did a lot of other stuff for us,” noted Coach Pait.

Sophmore Jonathan Robinson also tallied 8 points and pulled down 5 rebounds. “Robinson played like he did in the summer,” said Coach Pait. “If he plays like that we will be hard to beat.”

Freshman Keshawn Lewis added 5 points, and Page dished out 5 assists and had 3 steals to go with his 4 points.  “Everybody contributed,” continued Coach Pait. “Just go down the list; everyone of them played a part in this.”

Love totaled 13 points, and Pegues tallied 8 to follow Baldwin on the Buck scoring list.

McDonald canned 2 free throws, and Lewis flipped in a floater from the lane for an early 4-1 Knight lead. Johnson stole the ball and dropped in a lay-up, and Bowen threw down a jump hook for an 8-6 lead.

The Bucks answered with a 13-1 spurt and took a 19-9 lead. Bowen turned a McDonald feed into a lay-up, and Johnson pumped in a 10-footer. Hoke led 22-14 at the quarter break.

McDonald sank 2 foul shots and Dent made one to begin the second period. Robinson muscled in a follow then powered in a 6-foot bank shot to pull the Knights to within 22-21.

However a cold-shooting spell by the Knights over the next 5 minutes resulted in an 11-0 Hoke run. McDonald ended the drought with 2 free throws 14 seconds before halftime. The Bucks led 33-23 at intermission.

Lewis fired in a 3-point shot to start the third quarter. Robinson grabbed a deflected pass and scored from the lane then put back another rebound basket to trim the margin to 33-30.

Hoke ran off 7 straight points, but Dent pumped in a 16-footer from the key, and McDonald hit 2 foul shots to keep West within 42-34 at the quarter break.

The Knights improved to 8-1 and will play South Columbus at 4:30 Monday in the opening round of the East Columbus Holiday Tournament.

West Bladen (67) – Kalvin Page 4, Jimmy Williams, Keshawn Lewis 5, Gerardo Maldonado, Stefan McDonald 12, Sayaun Dent 15, Malique McDowell, Shaquille Johnson 8, Jonathan Robinson 8, Will Lambeth, John Bowen 15.

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