Senior guard Stefan McDonald poured in 24 points to lead West Bladen’s Knights to a 79-72 boys basketball victory over Midway that put the Knights into the championship game of the Woodmen Life Christmas Tournament.
Coach Travis Pait’s Knights, now 7-1, will play Class 4A opponent Hoke County Wednesday night at 8:00 for the tourney title. The Knights are the defending tournament champs.
The teams battled on even terms for 29 minutes. Junior Sayaun Dent tied the game for a final time 66-66 on a follow shot with 2:52 left to play. McDonald drilled a 3-point shot at the 2:13 mark for a 69-66 Knight lead.
Midway’s Shyheim Small flipped in a floater from the baseline, but West junior Kalvin Page canned 2 free throws. After Dent drove the baseline for a lay-up, Page made 2 more foul shots for a 75-68 lead with 52 seconds on the clock.
McDonald and Page hit free throws, and Dent sank 2 more with 22 seconds remaining to pad the lead to 79-70.
“We were the worst guarding team in America tonight,” said Coach Pait. “We knew we would have match-up problems with them, but we gave up too many transition 3-pointers.”
Midway guards Darius Perez and Shyheim Small threw in three 3-point baskets each, and another guard, Ayden Canady hit two more 3-pointers. Perez topped the Raider scoring with 22 points, Small followed with 21 and Canady scored 14 before fouling out.
The Knights did limit the Raiders star center Paris Smith to only 6 points. “We did a good job on No. 25 (Smith), but we can play a lot better than we did tonight.”
McDonald grabbed 5 rebounds and dished out 5 assists to go with his 24 points. The senior guard bombed the nets with four 3-point shots.
Dent followed with 15 points for the winners despite battling foul trouble for most of the night. Freshman Keshawn Lewis buried a couple of 3-point shots and posted a career-high 14 points. “Keshawn played really big for us tonight,” said Coach Pait.
Page totaled 6 points and 5 rebounds – 5 points and 4 rebounds in the fourth quarter. “Kalvin was huge for us tonight,” continued Coach Pait.
Sophmore Shaquille Johnson pulled down 11 rebounds to lead the Knights on the boards.
Perez connected on a trio of 3-point shots in the first period, Smith scored a pair of inside hoops, and Small hit a 3-ball as the Raiders took a 20-18 first quarter lead.
McDonald and Lewis both drained 3-point shots and scored 5 points each in the first period. Seven different Knights scored in the period.
After a McDonald drive produced a 3-point play and a 21-20 West lead, the Raiders answered with an 8-0 run and took a 28-21 lead midway the second quarter.
Dent sank 2 free throws, put back a rebound and buried a 3-point shot to slice the margin to 31-29. Sophmore Jonathan Robinson sank a pair of free throws to tie the game 31-31.
Will Lambeth’s follow shot edged West in front 33-32, but Midway’s Michael Kramer beat the buzzer with a rebound basket to give the Raiders a 34-33 halftime lead.
Small bombed in a pair of 3-point shots early in the third quarter, and Canady hit another 3-ball for a 45-38 Midway lead.
Lewis answered with a 3-ball from the left corner. Junior John Bowen converted a Johnson feed into a lay-up, and Lewis tied the game 45-45 with a pair of free throws.
Two more Lewis free throws and one by Robinson kept West within 50-48. Robinson missed his second shot, but Johnson snatched the rebound and dropped a pass to Lambeth for a lay-up and a 50-50 tie.
After a Midway free throw, McDonald dashed across the time line and drilled a 40-foot 3-pointer that beat the buzzer and vaulted West Bladen in front 53-51 at the quarter break.
Canady and McDonald traded 3-point baskets early in the fourth, and Knight senior Malique McDowell drove for a lay-up and a 59-57 West lead.
Page sank 2 foul shots, McDonald added a free throw then drove for a lay-up and the 64-64 tie with 3:13 left.
”I am proud of the way we kept fighting tonight,” said Coach Pait. “This team has a great attitude about subbing in and out. They understand that it is just about match-ups.”
It was the first loss of the season for Midway, now 9-1 overall. The Raiders will play Southern Lee at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the third-place game.
West Bladen (79) – Kalvin Page 6, Jimmy Williams 1, Keshawn Lewis 14, Stefan McDonald 24, Sayaun Dent 15, Malique McDowell 4, Shaquille Johnson 2, Jonathan Robinson 4, Will Lambeth 4, John Bowen 5.