By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
At the end of the second half against the Norwood Mustangs, the Westwood Wolverines’ boys basketball team trailed by sixteen points, 32-16. With 1:22 left in the game, they trailed by only four points, 58-54. But despite this run, spurred in large part by James McGowan’s 14 second half points and Norwood struggling against a full court press, Norwood’s clutch free throw shooting allowed the Mustangs to stave off the comeback and win the game by double digits, 68-58.
Norwood certainly wasn’t short on motivation to win the game. It was their senior night (they have six seniors on the team), Westwood had beaten them a few days before, and Fox 25 was on hand, likely to cover famed former Braintree girls’ basketball coach Kristin McDonnell, who won four state championships as the Wamps’ coach before moving to the boy's game as the head coach of Norwood. In the first half, they certainly looked more motivated.
The first quarter saw the teams trade threes, with Westwood’s coming from Russell Dolabany. A pick-and-slip and a Kyle Murray jump shot had the Wolverines up 7-3, until the first crack appeared with a James McGowan no-look pass that didn’t hit its a mark and Westwood's scoring going cold for nearly five minutes left in the quarter. Demauri Daniels deserves tons of credit for his handling of Westwood star James McGowan, playing pure man-to-man and frustrating him in the first half. Beyond that, Norwood stepped up their offensive rebounding, particularly the stout Robert Wladkowski, and hit a couple threes. Meanwhile, sloppy Westwood plays - like a pass that went off its intended recipient's foot - and a few Norwood steals had the Mustangs up, 16-7.
The second quarter started worse for the Wolverines, with a Norwood steal, a missed three, and a bunch of sometimes-consecutive offensive rebounds from the Mustangs, giving Norwood a 21-8 lead. A beautiful set play gave Kyle Murray two points, while McGowan drove and banked it in to keep the game from getting completely out of hand, but Norwood was too strong, leading to a Westwood timeout down 29-10 with 2:48 left in the half. Late in the half, Westwood unveiled their zone press, which seemed to throw off Norwood’s rhythm. It was during this time that Kyle Murray hustled back to not only prevent a Norwood transition basket, but get a steal that led to a Westwood layup. After a Murray putback and a McGowan turnaround jump shot, Westwood still trailed 32-16 at the half, but it could have been much worse.
The third quarter saw Westwood come on strong, beginning with Michael Noone scoring on a putback and a three to cut the lead to 36-21. It forced Norwood, while fine on the scoreboard, to read the tea leaves and take a timeout. The timeout didn’t do much good, because the Mustangs came out of it sloppier than before, offensively. While forcing some stops, a Noone three, a Dolabany putback, and a nice pass from McGowan to Michael Reardon cut the lead to single digits, 39-30. Both teams traded baskets and the quarter ended with Norwood’s halftime lead essentially cut in half, 43-34.
After a nice pass from McGowan to Noone, Westwood allowed Noah Beaudet to get his own missed three’s rebound, which led to three points the old fashioned way when he was fouled on the putback. From here, McGowan really started to assert himself. First, he had a pretty crossover that led to a layup. Then he had a couple steals. Then, Noone drove and was fouled, hitting both before McGowan stole the inbounds and hit a three. Suddenly, with the score at 51-48, Westwood was one possession away from tying the game. McGowan made both ends of a one-and-one soon after, and the Wolverines trailed by only two, 52-50.
This was as close as Westwood would come. Noah Beaudet would go coast-to-coast for the Mustangs, before a Noone turnover (which he quickly erased with a pretty lefty finish) cost the Wolverines some time on the clock in their comeback attempt. Dolabany then had the ball bounce off his leg. Most devastatingly of all, Norwood’s sophomore star, Noah Beaudet, went an incredibly impressive 11-11 from the free throw line, with many of those free throws coming at the end of the game.
Of James McGowan’s seventeen points on the night, fourteen came in the second half, while Dolabany was held to nine after contributing a career-high 25 points on Norwood in their first matchup. The loss was Westwood’s first, dropping them to 5-1, while the Mustangs moved to 6-2.