West Holmes Knights spoil Madison Rams’ senior night festivities, inflict OCC loss
MADISON TOWNSHIP – After being beaten by Madison earlier in the season on their home court, West Holmes walked into a crowd of packed seniors looking for a reward.
After the pre-game senior night festivities, the Rams quickly realized they were in for a long night after giving up the lead early in the first quarter. The Knights never looked back after taking an early lead and leading for the rest of the game, beating the Rams 66-56.
Madison started the game in a full-court man-to-man press and put heavy pressure on West Holmes guards. The Knights, however, were unimpressed with the defensive pressure and created open opportunities for easy three-point attempts to secure an 18-16 lead late in the first quarter.
“They’re a very athletic defensive team,” West Holmes coach John Miller said of Madison. “They’re flying all over the gym – which is really tough to deal with, but I have extreme faith in our guards.”
The Knights (9-8) took advantage of the Rams’ tight defense by beating defenders from the dribble and creating wide-opening shots around the edge. Madison’s defense tried to counter by turning and trapping West Holmes’ guards, but that led to assists and open shots for the Knights.
No one handled the pressure better than senior guard Blake Morrison who helped extend the Knights’ lead late in the second quarter by connecting on a buzzer-beating 3-point attempt to push the lead to 34- 27.
“We worked so hard in the offseason,” Morrison said. “With hours and hours of ball handling, throwing shots and playing one-on-one to be able to create my own shots.”
Morrison, who led the Knights with 19 points, stressed the importance of working with teammates when it comes to handling the ball under pressure and looking for open players. The Knights spread out scoring opportunities effectively with seven players scoring on the night.
However, Madison’s stiff defense began to impact the Knights in the third quarter. The Rams threatened to regain the lead early, but senior guard Chandler Wells, who contributed 17 points, stepped in to provide much-needed ball handling support. As the Rams tightened passing lanes in an attempt to create turnovers, Wells found junior forward Zander Shultz on two back-door passes for easy points, giving the Knights a seven-point advantage in the fourth quarter.
“Tonight I thought they were just a little grittier than us,” Madison coach Chris Armstrong said. “I think they bounced back with great effort. I thought we played hard, but I don’t think we necessarily matched their tenacity.
After playing fast defense for the first three quarters of the game, both teams quickly lost steam heading into the final quarter. Madison cut the lead to five points with just over three minutes left. However, junior center Mason Wolfe’s rebounding effort helped give the Knights the final edge they needed.
“We try to attack the rim at all times,” Miller said. “It opens up opportunities for Mason [Wolfe] and Brock [Zimmerly] get offensive rebounds and put [them] back. They did a great job on the boards tonight.
Wolfe finished the game with 10 points from offensive rebounds and free throws after being fouled on second-chance shooting opportunities.
With time running out, the Rams were forced to commit a foul. Things escalated after a technical foul was committed by senior guard Ethan Spillman, leading to the Knights’ final points of the game with just a minute to go, putting Madison out 66-56.
“They came to us and [beat] us pretty bad,” Morrison said. “Coming here and winning and playing our game against them – it’s really nice because we still have a shot at winning a conference title.”
The Rams (11-7) received little support from their reserve and relied heavily on their starting five to carry the load. Junior forward Jayden Jeffries contributed 19 points and senior guard Levi Zehner scored 14 points. Isaac Brooks senior (eight points) and Ethan Spillman (six points) also contributed for the Rams, who travel to Wooster on Friday.
The Knights, now in third place in the Ohio Cardinal Conference, improved to 9-7 and will face Lexington this Friday in hopes of retaining their title shot.