Varsity Basketball

East turns back West's late rally

After a furious rally Tuesday night, East High had erased an 18-10 first-period deficit and held a 36-32 halftime lead.

West, though, wouldn't go away and despite not leading since the second quarter, closing the gap to 72-71 with 10.1 seconds to play.

But East's Teance Walton hit two free throws with 5.9 seconds left, and a tying three-point attempt by Jamez Jones bounced off, sealing the Blue Aces' 74-71 City League triumph.

The outcome was a far cry from East's 79-44 rout Jan. 12 at West.

Eight East players scored in the second quarter, building the halftime lead.

But the Blue Aces (14-5, 12-3) couldn't stop West senior Travis Gantt, who scored 15 of his 31 points in the final period, pulling West (7-12, 3-13) within striking range.

Gantt's career-best total even surprised coach Phil Daignault.

"Are you serious?" he said when told Gantt had 31. "Travis is a talented kid, and he can make some plays. And tonight, he was feeling it."

East coach Ron Allen credited the Pioneers for never giving up, and he said the Blue Aces should use this as a learning experience.

"This late in the season, you take the win and you go on," he said. "You have to keep the pressure on until the last tick on the clock, and I think we learned that tonight.

"We got them down, but they kept fighting and fighting, and before you know it, I think we let down. They outhustled us to loose balls, and they got that scrappy turnover and laid it up and got two more points and kept getting the game close."

East hit 23 free throws — 13 in the fourth quarter. Jalen Carter was 4 of 4 in the quarter for a team-high 18 points, but he said there's work to be done before sub-state games begin.

"Right now, we've got to back to work," Carter said. "This was a win that we squeaked out."

Walton, playing his first game after arthroscopic knee surgery, had 13 points.

Allen said he was impressed by the Pioneers.

"You could tell that they had gelled as a team and they had been battle-tested a few times," Allen said. "It epitomizes a scrappy ballclub. You don't find any weak links in their armor."

West (7-12, 3-13) 18 14 11 28 — 71 East (14-5, 12-3) 10 26 16 22 — 74

WEST: J. Jones 5 2-5 15, Gantt 10 8-9 31, Scruggs 4 2-3 11, Flournoy 2 0-0 4, Thomas 3 0-0 6, Washington 2 0-2 4, Eatmon 0 0-2 0. Totals 26 (7) 12-21 71.

EAST: Williams 1 4-8 6, Love 4 3-6 10, Jackson 2 3-4 7, Melbert 1 0-0 2, Carter 6 6-7 18, Reed 1 2-2 4, Griffin 1 0-0 2, Duque 3 0-0 6, Johnson 2 0-0 6, Walton 4 5-6 13. Totals 24 (3) 23-33 74.

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