East Surry cut an 11-point lead to four in the closing seconds, but couldn’t pull even as West Stokes won 78-71 Tuesday night.
In the first semifinal game of the boys’ Northwest Conference Tournament, the sixth-seeded Cardinals played even with the second-seeded Wildcats throughout the first half.
West Stokes pulled ahead in the third quarter, but East Surry kept battling the rest of the way.
At the outset, Tyler Pardue and Drew Alley gave the Cards an early 6-4 lead.
Then West Stokes ran off seven straight points, including an alley-oop dunk from Tanner Lomax to Alston Furr.
The run could have been nine straight, but the Wildcats missed two free throws. In fact, the Cats were 1-6 in the first half and missed their first three shots of the second half.
Scott Meredith, Pardue and Alley then scored three quick baskets for a 14-11 East lead.
The lead went back and forth as both teams shot a high percentage from the field before West Stokes got the last basket of the quarter for a 22-all tie.
Meredith and Alley each had two threes in the quarter, and Carson Long hit one off the bench.
The teams cooled off in the second period, with West Stokes edging ahead 31-28 before Pardue scored at the buzzer for a 31-30 score. Pardue had 10 points in the half, while West’s big man, Reid Goodson, had 11 points.
West guard Josh Spainhour started the second half with a big push. He scored 12 points as West outscored East Surry 24-14 through the first six minutes of the period.
Then he gave some of those points back.
On an inbounds play, Spainhour pushed Drew Alley to the floor, then fell on top of him. The officials rushed in, called a foul on Spainhour, then a technical.
At this point, the Wildcats had their biggest lead at 55-44.
Meredith hit two free throws, then the Cards got the ball back.
On the next possession, Spainhour twice flopped to the floor, trying to draw an offensive foul on East Surry, but the referees weren’t fooled.
Eli Gilbert and Alley each hit two free throws in the final minute to cut the lead to 55-50.
At the start of the fourth, two West players who didn’t score at all in the first half came up with buckets.
Tanner Lomax made a steal and converted in transition. Then Zach Hartle hit a three-pointer from the top of the key for a 60-50 lead.
The lead again reached 11 points at 62-51, then Seth Brim and Alley hit two foul shots each. Pardue hit one foul shot to make it 66-56 with 3:22 left.
After Lomax missed the front end of a one-and-one with 3:04 left, Meredith nailed a step-back jumper from the left baseline.
Long made a steal and converted for a 66-60 game.
After Spainhour made two free throws, Long pump-faked a three, then converted a 17-footer for a 68-62 margin.
Meredith hit two foul shots, a three-pointer and a pullup jumper to cut the lead to 73-69.
After two foul shots, Meredith missed a shot, stole the ball back from West and made a layup to cut the lead back to four at 75-71. However, there were just 19 seconds left by then, and West hit 3-4 foul shots in the closing seconds.
“We played well,” said East Coach Jason Anderson. West Stokes hit some shots to start the third, and East Surry didn’t, and that made the difference in the game.
“The guys were really focused, especially during timeouts,” he said.
In an unusual move, North Surry had West Stokes’ cheering section sitting directly behind the East Surry bench, something that never happens in the regular season.
“That may have helped us,” said the coach. The players had to really listen to hear what he said in huddles, so that might have gotten them more into the game.
Anderson noted the impact that Pardue had in the game.
“Tyler has been hard-nosed all year,” he said. “He’s not outspoken … but he will give you heart and toughness every time he steps out on that floor.”
Pardue finished with 15 points. Meredith and Alley scored 19 points each.
Gilbert and Long scored seven, and Brim scored two.
Spainhour led West Stokes with 28 points, 21 in the second half. Goodson added 18 points, Furr and Keshawn Rawleigh eight each.
Looking back on the year, he said, “This season, we’ve had some bad luck our way.” Guys have been injured during the year, and some players who might have helped the team didn’t get to play at all because of injuries during the football season, he noted.
“Every time we hit a wall, they have responded,” he said of the players. The close loss to Mount Airy on Friday could have sent the squad into a tailspin, but they bounced back with two of their best games of the season.
West Stokes advances to the tournament final on Friday night at North Surry. The Cats will take on the winner of tonight’s game between Winston-Salem Prep and Bishop McGuinness.
Anderson said he knows that the Cards have qualified for the state 1A playoffs, but he will have to wait until this weekend to see who they play and where in the first round.