High School Boys Basketball

Surging Falcons nip Westbury, advance to regional quarters

By DENNIS SILVA II, Times Sports Editor
Posted 2/28/20

Tompkins is not supposed to be here, still playing two weeks after the regular season ended and beating two higher-seeded playoff opponents along the way.

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High School Boys Basketball

Surging Falcons nip Westbury, advance to regional quarters

Posted

Tompkins is not supposed to be here, still playing two weeks after the regular season ended and beating two higher-seeded playoff opponents along the way.

And yet, here the Falcons stand after squeezing by Houston Westbury, 51-50, in the Class 6A area playoffs on Friday at Seven Lakes High. Tompkins’ record says it is 17-20 heading into a third-round playoff showdown against Bellaire on Tuesday at the Merrell Center. But reality says the Falcons have won 10 of their last 17 games and are peaking at the best time of the season in earning the program’s second trip to the regional quarterfinals in five years, including an impressive win over the 22-13 Huskies.

“We’ve lost 20 games,” coach Bobby Sanders said. “Twelve of those were winnable—by a couple points, a possession here or there. People don’t expect us to be here. They look at our record and didn’t expect us to win this game. But we’ve got guys who can shoot. That makes a difference.”

The Falcons got one of those shooters back and are finally at full strength again.

After suffering a dislocated knee against Katy on Jan. 10, sophomore guard BB Knight played his first game since returning to practice on Wednesday.

Knight was a difference-maker. Though he claims he is only at about “75 percent” full health, he scored 11 points off the bench, including two clutch free throws with 33 seconds left that broke a 47-all tie.

He connected on 3 of 7 3s, including a big one earlier in the fourth quarter to thwart a Westbury lead.

“I was anxious the first day back. Second day, I felt better,” Knight said. “Tonight, I showed I can still play. The first 3 I made, I calmed down and felt good.”

When Knight checked into the game late during the first quarter, Westbury’s players and coaches on the sidelined screamed out “Get number 1 (Knight). Get number 1!”

“He immediately opens up everybody else,” said Sanders, who was encouraged by Knight’s diving for loose balls and hard cuts.

As Knight acclimated himself, senior guard Johnny Nash once again established control.

Nash, who has played spectacularly during Knight’s absence, scored nine of his game-high 18 points in the first quarter. He added five rebounds, establishing a quick pace and getting to the basket at will in a lineup with four shooters as the Falcons built a double-digit advantage.

“We just try to come out strong and move the ball around,” Nash said. “Tonight, they found me open for shots. We got the ball, pushed it up and my teammates were looking for me.

“Team chemistry is really coming together. At the beginning of the season, we struggled playing together. But now we’re moving the ball and playing as a team. There’s not one unselfish guy on this team.”

But Westbury battled back, using a dominant third quarter in which it outscored Tompkins 20-6, hit 3 of 4 3s and forced five turnovers.

The Falcons held a 43-42 lead with less than two minutes left before senior forward Bryson Morehead drilled a crucial 3 in the left corner for separation with 90 seconds left.

It was Morehead’s only make of the game, and arguably the biggest.

“We drew it up and said we were going to get the ball to the middle with (senior post) Hank (Sanders) in one corner and Bryson in a corner,” Sanders said. “One of them was going to be wide open, and Bryson is not scared to shoot a big shot.”

Aside from Nash and Knight, sophomore forward Carmelo Yakubu was impressive with nine points and seven rebounds. Hank Sanders hit two clutch free throws with seven seconds left that gave Tompkins a 51-47 lead, rendering Jordan Williams’ buzzer-beating 3 meaningless.

Tompkins forced 13 turnovers and held Westbury to 7-for-21 shooting from 3.

“Our defense has been really solid these two playoff games,” Sanders said. “If we can keep playing defense the way we are, we have a chance.”

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