Th. Johnson fights off late rally by Westminster Clutch free throws put Owls on losing side again

Boys basketball

January 07, 1998|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,SUN STAFF

For the second straight game Westminster had a tie inside of the final three minutes -- and for the second straight time the game got away down the stretch.

A three-point play gave visiting Thomas Johnson the lead with two minutes and 24 seconds to go, and the Frederick County team (5-2, 3-0) thwarted the Owls (6-3, 0-1) by converting 10 of 12 free throws the rest of the way.

It was TJ's 51st straight Central Maryland Conference victory.

Unlike last week's buzzer-beating basket that gave St. Mary's a 42-40 victory, this one began to unravel for the Owls with the score tied at 45 and four minutes on the clock.

On successive possessions, Westminster totaled eight straight missed shots off nearly as many offensive rebounds, and most of those attempts were from three-point range. Normally a fairly accurate group from outside, the shooters simply could not buy a basket.

Then, off one of those misses, Levi Watkins claimed a rebound and the Patriots' rapidly improving 6-foot-6 freshman hit David Stone with the outlet pass. Stone was fouled on a successful drive to the basket, and when he made the foul shot it was 48-45.

More free throws boosted the TJ margin to 53-47 entering the final minute, but Sean Davis made a layup and, with 12 seconds left, finally drilled a three-pointer to get the Owls within 54-52.

Fouled on their next two possessions, the Patriots got free throws from Stone and Watkins to insure the victory.

"It wasn't pretty, but I'm glad about the composure we showed down the stretch," said Thomas Johnson coach Tom Dickman.

This was particularly true of Watkins, who enjoyed his best game with 18 points.

The visitors had used an up-tempo style to wallop Urbana, 76-43, last Friday, but had to settle for a slower style this time. The Owls' aggressive, ball-hawking defense that forced several turnovers also contributed to Thomas Johnson's problems.

The home side used some zone defense and a patterned offense orchestrated by point guard Desmond Esteves (10 assists, six rebounds).

Aaron Krug led Westminster with 12 points, followed by Sean Davis and Mark Gonzalez with nine apiece.

"Maybe we were not as relaxed as usual, too involved in the game, I don't know," Westminster coach Dave Byers said. "You have to credit Thomas Johnson, too. They took us out of a lot of things we do."

Pub Date: 1/07/98

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